President Blaník


Reviewed by: Jane Fae

President Blaník
"The narrative is patchy and uneven."

Prezident Blanik is, from start to finish, one great confused, well-intentioned mess of a film. Its origins lie in the online satirical series Kancelá? Blaník, produced by web television company Stream, and it follows the adventures of fictional Czech lobbyist Antonín "Tonda" Blaník (Marek Daniel) and his trusty – if much put upon - hench people Zízala (Michal Dalecký) and Lenka (Halka Tresnáková).

Superficially, the film documents Blaník's candidacy in the Czech Republic's 2018 presidential election. Cue outrageous satire. For Tonda is a grotesque: a larger than life, foul-mouthed, cynical work of self-interest, obsessed with clothes (above all, shoes!) and getting rich. In between swearing at schoolchildren, and pissing over the massed ranks of his supporters at a rally, he gets drunk and succumbs to bouts of self-pitying melancholy as his mother alternates between belittling him and failing to answer his phone calls.

Copy picture

The plot includes an actual plot. For Tonda has learnt that on one reading of the constitution, as president he would be able to sell off the Czech Republic piecemeal to the highest bidder. So naturally, he hatches a plan to sell Czechia to the Chinese and if not everything works out as intended, that is hardly his fault.

So it's fiction? Not quite. The film kicked off with release of a video in October 2017, in which the fictional Blaník announced his candidacy for Czech president. Blaník then attended the first presidential debate in November 2017, on the same day that the film's creators announced that his candidacy was part of work on a film called Prezident Blaník.

It was intended to shoot the film during the campaign as background to and comment on the election as it happened. To this end, it includes footage of Blaník/Marek Daniel meeting and interacting with the main presidential candidates. However, the film does not quite live up to its aim of providing contemporaneous commentary, as shooting finished at the end of December 2017, just over a month before the second and final round of the election. So a range of alternative endings were filmed.

So far, so Sacha Baron Cohen. Introduction of the fictional Blanik persona into a real election is ambitious and has extreme subversive potential. This though is where what likely seemed a good idea at the concept stage falls flat.

Yes, there is footage of Blanik on the stage of a real election: and yes, we see him interacting with the other candidates. But where Baron Cohen gets under the skin of his targets, and traps them into statements and admissions that are politically damaging, this aspect of Prezident Blaník is unconvincing, even embarrassing.

Nothing that Blanik/Marek says or does hits home and it is clear that the real candidates are both aware that they are dealing with some sort of prank and are more bemused than anything else by it. That means that a significant chunk of the film, which could have been razor sharp in terms of insight, misses its mark altogether.

Meanwhile, a complete puzzle to anyone brought up on UK libel laws is the way that the film cuts in news stories that appear to be fake and malicious - or perhaps they are true. It is hard to tell.

Beyond this, the narrative is patchy and uneven. For the most part it is a three-hander, focused on Blanik's interactions with Zízala and Lenka, as well as Blanik's interactions with a variety of off-screen actors who exist solely as people to be shouted at down the telephone. A sure sign of a low budget!

There are various sub-plots/running jokes. Lenka's attempts to obtain custody of her son while working 24/7 on Blanik's campaign. A bunch of sinister dudes in masks who kidnap Zízala at a critical point in the film. A series of conversations between Blanik and the ghost of Václav Havel , first president of the Republic (also played by Marek Daniel).

Some of this works. Some, like the appearance of the underground Lumpen Cafe society, feels like a joke peculiar to Czech culture.

Directed by award-winning Marek Najbrt, this is a brave attempt to say something meaningful about the state of politics in the Czech Republic today. It includes a large message about the selling out of the country's politics, accompanied by moments of real comedy. But these are outweighed by inconsistencies, non-sequiturs and points where the film just falls flat on its face.

Reviewed on: 30 Oct 2018
Share this with others on...
President Blaník packshot
Czech political satire.

Director: Marek Najbrt

Writer: Jan Bartes, Robert Geisler, Tomás Hodan, Marek Najbrt, Benjamin Tucek

Starring: Marek Daniel, Michal Dalecký, Tomás Klus, Jakub Zelezný, Michal Horácek, Jirí Drahos, Milos Zeman, Ivan Bartos, Eva Drahosová, Halka Tresnáková, Miroslav Kalousek, Mirek Topolánek, Ladislav Spacek, Tomás Sokol, Tomás Sedlácek

Year: 2018

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Czech Republic


Made In Prague 2018

Search database: