Beauty In Trouble

Beauty In Trouble

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Those who saw director Jan Hrebejk and writer Petr Jarchovsy´’s 2005 film Up And Down when it screened at Edinburgh Film Festival and beyond will find some elements of this film familiar – and at least one member of the cast, Emília Vásáryová, excellent here as a religious mother-in-law.

Although the subject matter is very different, both films focus to some extent on the essence of love and morality. Hrebejk and Jarchovsky also employ a similarly multi-faceted plot, which sees disparate characters link up in unexpected ways, although Beauty In Trouble is much more pared down than their previous outing.

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The film takes its title from a poem by Robert Graves, the opening lines of which set the tone for the drama: “Beauty in trouble flees to the good angel, On whom she can rely, To pay her cab-fare, run a steaming bath, Poultice her bruised eye...” Marcela (Anna Geislerová) is the Beauty in question – and she is an appropriately striking actress. Her family has been through the mill thanks to the 2002 Prague floods, which have left their house looking like a disaster zone – a situation which may have a harsh resonance in Britain thanks to the recent 2007 floods.

Marcela’s husband Jarda (Roman Luknár) is running a car thief ring and chop shop to raise money to fix the hot and cold running mould the house is now rife with, since they were uninsured when disaster struck.

In addition to her two kids, asthmatic little Kuba (Adam Misík) and his big sister Lucina (Michaela Mrvíková), they also share with her mother-in-law (Vásáryová).

When it all gets too much, Marcela flees home to mum (Jana Brejchová) and her monstrous Machiavellian partner Risa (Jirí Schmitzer). It is then that the ‘coincidences’ Hrebejk and Jarchovsky like so much begin.

An unfortunate bit of thievery sees Jarda in trouble with the law and his arrest sets up a chance encounter between Marcela and the older rich bloke whose car Jarda was slicing and dicing, Evzen Benes (Josef Abrahám). Naturally, because this is in part a drama of the heart, it isn’t long before the even-tempered manner and deep pockets of Evzen have Marcela falling for him. What begins as a guardian angel-style relationship quickly evolves into something more, with the burning question being, of course, who will she choose – and, perhaps more importantly, why?

It is the depth of the characters coupled with the breadth of the acting talent that make this film so watchable. Although initially seeming to be very firm ‘types’, as the film progresses the inner workings of the characters’ minds prove them to be less consistent – and therefore more ‘real’ – than they first appear. Particularly well-drawn is the disconcertingly creepy Risa, who despite his mind games is, in many ways, the most honest character and the most true to himself. Misík and Mrvíková turn in excellent performances as the youngsters, petrified their Uncle Risa hates them so much that he’s going to kill him.

This is film built on contrast – the difference between Marcela’s mum’s cramped flat and Evzen’s sprawling Tuscan villa, the juxtaposition of Marcela’s working-class Czech upbringing (epitomised by her drink of choice, a mix of red wine and cola) and, perhaps most importantly, the ear-covering noisy sex she has with Jarda compared to the behind-closed-doors coupling she shares with the more sedate Benes.

That said, there is still something quite clinical about the relationships on display. As an audience, we are always looking in at them, curious, yet not really able to take any of them, except perhaps Evzen, to our hearts. A sub-plot regarding shady property dealing is also largely redundant and could easily have been cut. The film, however, should be praised for refusing to offer up easy answers, even to that most simple of questions: “Do you love me?”

NB Edinburgh Festival fact fans might like to note that one of the songs used in the film - the terrific Falling Slowly, can be heard in its original context in Once, also screening at EIFF 2007.

Reviewed on: 15 Aug 2007
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Beauty In Trouble packshot
A woman falls for an older man after her husband is locked up for stealing.

Director: Jan Hrebejk

Writer: Petr Jarchovský

Starring: Anna Geislerová, Josef Abrhám, Roman Luknár, Jirí Schmitzer, Jana Brejchová, Adam Misík, Michaela Mrvíková, Emília Vásáryová, Martin Huba, Jirí Machácek, Jaromíra Mílová

Year: 2006

Runtime: 110 minutes

Country: Czech Republic

Festivals:

EIFF 2007

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