Let There Be Light

****

Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Milan Ondrík in Let There Be Light
"Set against a perpetually snowy background the film paces itself perfectly with a gathering sense of an impending implosion." | Photo: Film Servis Karlovy Vary

Marko Škop reveals himself as a director who knows how to pull together a story around a specific subject and who is able to deliver a taut script with not a word out of place.

The story could not be more pertinent to today’s Europe against the background of the rise of right-wing extremists. The main character of the absentee father is an economic migrant living in Germany who returns home to his small village in Slovakia for Christmas.

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He is shocked to discover little by little that his teenage son has been recruited by a paramilitary youth organisation, a revelation that provokes all kinds of conflicts and familial tensions. The boy (an assured portrayal by František Beleš) is involved in bullying which leads to the death of a class-mate - and then the police become involved.

Actor Milan Ondrík takes the pivotal and demanding lead role of the father and runs with it in an exceptionally well-crafted performance. He had worked previously with the same director on Eva Nová, his first narrative feature.

The descriptions of the proto-fascist youth brigades and small town intolerance have the ring of complete authenticity but the core of the film is the theme of a missing father.

Ondrik’s character has himself been brought up with a strict and god-fearing father and he wants to give his children a better start.

Škop has been inspired by the existence in Slovakia of right-wing extremists whose activities often receive media coverage. The ideological indoctrination of young people is a real concern in Slovakia. Not only that but the director also deals with a morally corrupt church and a police force who conveniently turn a blind eye.

The film reflects how polarised European politics has become with the antics of Nigel Farage, although in Slovakia the far right party of Marian Kotleba came in third place in the recent European Parliamentary elections.

The father, who treats his treasured collection of firearms almost as a symbol of his masculinity, has to cope with a lot of pressures, not least his wife (Zuzana Kone?ná) accusing him of being an absentee parent despite benefiting from his travails. On her own she feels she cannot keep an adequate close eye on the two boys and a younger girl. She also makes obvious her displeasure about his long absences, leading to domestic friction.

Set against a perpetually snowy background the film paces itself perfectly with a gathering sense of an impending implosion.

Škop had made a series of award-winning documentaries before his feature début on Eva Nová, and now Let There Be Light confirms his talents as an assured director of actors and a director-writer of great economy and rigour.

Reviewed on: 30 Jun 2019
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A Slovakian man, who works in Germany, returns home for Christmas to discover some brutal truths about his eldest son.

Director: Marko Škop

Writer: Frantisek Krähenbiel, Zuzana Liová, Marko Škop

Starring: Andreas Nickl, Dieter Fischer, Ingrid Timková, Csongor Kassai, Lubomír Paulovic, Zuzana Konecná, Daniel Fischer, Michal Kinik, Anikó Varga, Katarina Kormanakova, Milan Ondrík, Frantisek Beles, Jakub Kuka, Juliane Werner, Maximilian Dusanic

Year: 2019

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: Slovakia, Czech Republic

Festivals:

Karlovy 2019

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