Zuzana Murery, Csongor Kassai, Zuzana Konecna
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
…a typical Czech film in terms of its sly humour and thinly-veiled sense of the absurd.
Big tyrants yield petty tyrants. Or rather that seems to be the lesson from history. This bittersweet film from Czechoslovakia (let’s not label it a comedy as such) deals with a specific example of the abuses of power. It is set in a small community in Bratislava during the 1980s in the era of Soviet rule.
There is a new teacher in the local school called Maria (Zuzana Maurery monstering the role in a delicious way). To the quiet dismay of the parents and other staff members she sets about setting up a little fiefdom and soon has the kids running her errands and the parents mending her house. None of this is exactly helping the kids with their lessons but Maria is tight with the local Communist Party boss, so it is not easy to challenge her blatant scamming. Slowly, the parents start to come together and see if they can do something about the situation and we intercut between the town hall meeting where they try to oust her and various other little incidents. There are delicate negotiations to be had here as the utterly biased school administration do all they can to divide the parent body and stop the dissenters from actually signing the petition that will restore justice to the situation.
In many ways this is a typical Czech film in terms of its sly humour and thinly-veiled sense of the absurd. They have given us great filmmaking in this vein in the past (for example there is the great Jiri Menzel, whose fine humanist sensibility is echoed in this film).
Under Stalinism black is officially declared white and actual evidence is manipulated or deliberately misconstrued. It seems that the more brazen the corruption, the more likely it is to be somehow unchallengeable. This illogicality itself can be the source of humour. If there is one drawback, it is that the film might seem dated or going over old ground. Do people know or care enough about the specifics of the abuses of this era today? The film hopes to get by instead on its fine script and carefully realised characters. Perhaps that is enough.