Intimate Lighting


Reviewed by: Paul Allen

Intimate Lighting is a complex mixture of absurdity and regrets.
"In Passer's hands, understatement is a powerful weapon." | Photo: Courtesy of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

When legendary Polish director Krzyzstof Kieslowski (Three Colours Trilogy) cites Intimate Lighting as one of the ten films that have most affected him, you know it's not going be a turkey. But after 15 minutes of Ivan Passer's carefully measured scene-setting, you do start to wonder if it will be one of those bleak, monochrome Eastern European classics you wished you liked, but would actually rather pull teeth than sit through.

Have no fear. In Passer's hands, understatement is a powerful weapon. This delicate comedy proves perhaps the gentlest example of all Czech new wave cinema - but also one of its genuine masterpieces.

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Shot in 1965, the threadbare story revolves around a countryside reunion between old musician friends Bambas and Petr.

Living with his wife, mother-in-law and clutch of children, music teacher Bambas (Karel Blazek) is a country mouse, even if he still dreams of a life less ordinary. When professional soloist Petr (Zdenek Bezusek) and his beautiful girlfriend Stepa (Vera Kresadlova) arrive from the city, the contrast between their lives couldn't be more apparent.

But Passer doesn't patronise us with po-faced social commentary. Instead, he allows the characters to meander through a series of amusing vignettes, rarely constrained by any real plot narrative. The outcome is a moving, often hilarious depiction of humanity.

The comedy works at different levels. Bambas' father is the film's most comic character. His vodka-fuelled braggadocio and claims of sexual conquest appear entirely absurd against the humdrum of village life. But the true magic of Intimate Lighting lies in this very banality - where wholly unremarkable protagonists unwittingly conjure up moments of breathless hilarity.

By rejecting tangible storylines, detailed character studies and dramatic diversions, Passer has laid the movie bare. That it emerges a cinematic triumph is rich testament to his directorial talents. Small wonder Kieslowski was so inspired. Intimate Lighting is a glorious rebuttal of style over substance - and a masterclass in deceptively simple storytelling.

Reviewed on: 28 Mar 2006
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Czech new wave classic about the reunion of two friends.
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Director: Ivan Passer

Writer: Jaroslav Papousek, Ivan Passer, Vaclav Sasek

Starring: Karel Blazek, Zdenek Bezusek, Vera Kresadlova, Jan Vostrcil, Jaroslava Stedra, Vlastimila Vlkova, Karel Uhlik

Year: 1965

Runtime: 72 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: Czechoslovakia


Karlovy 2016

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