Late Night Talks With Mother


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Late Night Talks With Mother
"This film is a considerably more soul-searching affair, which like much of his output concerning himself, has its moments in terms of experimentation but also flirts with self-indulgence."

Czech director Jan Nemec had no fear of putting himself - or at least versions of himself - within his films. In The Czech Connection he happily killed himself off and, in his final film The Wolf From Royal Vineyard Street, he takes a playful approach to a consideration of his life.

This film is a considerably more soul-searching affair, which like much his output concerning himself has its moments in terms of experimentation but also flirts with self-indulgence. The structure is, as the title suggests, conversations with his mother (voiced by Zuzana Stivinova, who would later go on to take the central role in his experimental documentary Toyen). These are mostly had in the cold light of day as he takes a walk along a tram route in Prague with a fish-eye lens, his conversations sometimes delivered to camera by Karel Roden, who would go on to be another version of the director in Vineyard Street.

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The distorted, often kaleidoscopic images this presents are just one of the ways he holds the idea of 'perception' up to scrutiny; his mum was an optician and the letter E from an eye chart is also a recurring motif. Just as we can't always be sure what we are seeing, so Nemec's presentation of the truth is always open to question, although there's a sense of this film's self-analysis being more penetrating than his later return to biography. The title takes its cue from Franz Kafka's Letter To His Father, a fitting choice as there is often a Kafkaesque feel to Nemec's work, no wonder considering his exile from his homeland, the "banning forever" of his masterwork The Party And The Guests. and his battles with bureaucracy.

Time is also a fluid entity for Nemec, used to disorienting effect in Diamonds Of The Night, he toys with it in Vineyard Street, where he employs a variation of a phrase used here to describe his time in America: "You wake up after an afternoon nap and 20 years have passed." In many ways this film sums up the joys and frustrations of Nemec - on the one hand offering emotionally punchy interludes, such as footage from his accidental documentation of the fall of Prague, on the other entering sybaritic realms of imagined playboy grandeur. While this is, deliberately, not a perfect documentary or complete consideration of Nemec's life, it nevertheless has a ring of emotional truth that, despite its fripperies, makes it feel like a deeply personal work.

The film will screen as part of the Jan Nemec retrospective at the Made In Prague festival at 6.30pm on Friday November 10.

Reviewed on: 10 Nov 2017
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Semi-autobiographical reflections based on Němec’s imaginary dialogue with his mother and inspired by Kafka’s A Letter to his Father.

Director: Jan Němec

Writer: Jan Němec

Starring: Karel Roden, Václav Havel, Vera Jirousová, Ester Krumbachová, Marta Kubisová, Jan Nemec, Zuzana Stivínová

Year: 2001

Runtime: 69 minutes

Country: Czech Republic


Made In Prague 2017

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The Wolf From Royal Vineyard Street