Up And Down

Up And Down


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

This is one of those films with so many plot strands that, if you gathered them together, you could probably knit a sweater. Instead, co-writer/director Jan Hrebejk knits a pretty decent movie.

There are multiple plotlines, joined, some very tenuously, by a chance occurrence late one night. Two men are trafficking illegals over the Czech border, but after ushering them out of the van and driving off they discover a baby in the back. When you're a petty criminal in Prague, it seems, everything has a price and so the baby is sold to a couple desperate for a child but unable to adopt because Mila's (Natasa Burger) husband (Jirí Machácek) is on probation for football hooliganism.

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If you're still with me, take a breath, as there is also the story of Hana (Ingrid Timková), the outreach worker, who promises the illegal mum she'll find her child, and her partner Otto (Jan Triska), who has a brain tumour, which needs an operation that may kill him, and his wife, who has fallen on hard times since they split, and their son (Petr Forman), who emigrated to Australia after his then girlfriend Hana went off with dad, and hasn't seen any of them for 20 years.

Despite these disparate tales, there is a central theme - conflict - just about every type of it you can possibly imagine. The old bourgeois values versus a new liberalism, the young versus the old, racism and plain old relationships. In fact, considering the number of plotlines on the go, it's amazing that the film hangs together enough to give you an overall sense of theme, but Hrebejk more or less manages it. This isn't the Prague of weekend breaks and stag dos. This is its underbelly, torn between wanting to move on and look back, between assimilation and retaining it's own identity.

The acting throughout is top-notch, particularly from Forman (son of director Milos, fact fans) and Burger, as the childless woman pushed to the edge of reason by her desperation for a baby. Plus writers Hrebejk and Petr Jarchovsky know when to give the audience a break.

This is a struggle, but there is still plenty to laugh about. While the film is a little too clever for its own good - and one or two of the plot twists are obvious - it is an ambitious premise that only just falls short of genius.

Reviewed on: 21 Aug 2005
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Up And Down packshot
Satire of racism and xenophobia in modern Prague.
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Director: Jan Hrebejk

Writer: Jan Hrebejk, Petr Jarchovsky

Starring: Petr Forman, Emília Vasaryova, Jan Triska, Ingrid Timkova, Kristyna Bokova, Jirí Machacek, Natasa Burger

Year: 2004

Runtime: 108 minutes

Country: Czech Republic


EIFF 2005

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