Eye For Film >> Movies >> Czech Dream (2004) Film Review
The Czechs have emerged from behind the Iron Curtain into a fully-fledged free market economy at an unprecedented rate and one symptom of this rapid transformation has been the astronomic growth in hypermarkets. Although the Republic did not glimpse its first Western-style supermarket until as late as 1995, in the last five years over 125 hypermarkets have appeared, giving rise to a new phenomenon known as 'hypermarketomanie', or a pathological addiction to shopping in malls.
In this climate, two enterprising young men, Vít Klusak and Filip Remunda, developed a massive, well-researched "teaser" campaign for the launch of their new hypermarket, called Cesky Sen (or Czech Dream), and sure enough, on the day of the opening, well over 4000 shoppers were attracted to the new store's site in a meadow on the outskirts of Prague, hoping to see their (low-price) dreams fulfilled, perhaps drawn by the glossy brochure's promise of "surprises for everyone."
What they got was more (or less) than they had bargained for - an 8-by-100m facade, erected on scaffolding, with nothing but grass behind it. For Klusak and Remunda were student filmmakers, marketing a non-existent fantasy to test the outer limits of advertising's power to bamboozle. The result was a successful prank that would provoke anger, enlightenment and a lot of soul-searching at a time when the Czech Government was launching its own massive advertising campaign (also ultimately successful) to encourage a Yes vote for the European Union.
This documentary follows the filmmakers as they are given a style makeover, so as to appear more like businessmen than students, while they work with (and slyly question) a well-known advertising agency, as it turns an empty idea into a saleable dream. Once their trick has been revealed, the film documents reactions from both the public and the media.
Klusak and Remunda are hardly the first to use an amusing stunt as the means of making political material more palatable, but unlike their American equivalents, such as The Yes Men, or even Michael Moore, the Czech pranksters display an admirable awareness that their story is much bigger than themselves. Instead of engaging in pointless camera-hogging self-promotion, or triumphantly ridiculing the people their campaign has hoodwinked, they simply show the planning and execution of their illusion (elaborate enough to make viewers wonder if they would not also have been taken in), and then, once their provocation is complete, they step back, leaving its interpretation wholly to others, including some of their outraged critics, whose arguments, far from being trivialized, or lampooned, are given a fair screening.
Whether it is just an experimental happening on a grand scale, a practical joke to expose a public's idiocy, a massive waste of people's time (and some State money), a demonstration of the ease with which well-financed advertising can manipulate beliefs, or a terrifying mirror to a society consumed by consumerism, Klusak and Remunda's project injected a healthy dose of scepticism into Czech political discourse, reawakening thought, argument and doubt from a long, dreamy slumber.
With its focus on market economics, this intelligent documentary is an alarm call for anyone already living under Western-style capitalism. Or hoping to sign up for it.Reviewed on: 11 Nov 2005