Totalitarian brutality made personal
by Theodore Schwinke
- A relentless and often brutal portrayal of a bad system and the even-worse cop who makes it his playground
Czech cinema has to date dealt lightly with the country's totalitarian past. Filmmakers have given the Nazi occupation the period treatment in Divided We Fall, Zelary [+see also:
film profile] and more recently in Protektor, but the communist era is largely the territory of bittersweet comedies like The Wonderful Years That Sucked.
Walking Too Fast [+see also:
interview: Radim Spacek
film profile] changes that record. Director Radim Špaček has created a gripping thriller that will draw comparisons to Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others [+see also:
interview: Florian Henckel von Donners…
interview: Ulrich Muehe
film profile] for its sensitive treatment of its time period and Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant for its chilling portrayal of the abuse of authority.
The film is set in an nameless city in Czechoslovakia, sometime during the Normalization period. Investigator Antonín (Ondřej Malý) takes a sudden interest in a beautiful young factory worker, Klára (Kristína Farkašová). Determined to seduce her, but without a seducer's charms, he uses violence and intimidation to isolate her from the people she holds dear.
When Antonín discovers Klára's affair with Tomáš (Martin Finger), a blunt tool of the dissident movement, he threatens him with prison, interrogates him brutally and finally destroys his marriage as well as his relationship with Klára. Antonín turns next on Pavel (Luboš Veselý), a dissident writer-turned-collaborator, poisoning him with cynicism and undermining his respectability.
Malý plays the diminutive Antonín as an unstoppable imp possessed of extraordinary strength, or simply possessed. He descends into schizophrenia, turning even against his own family, his colleagues and himself with icy detachment. Asked by his wife if he has a lover, he responds: “No, but I sure as hell wish I did.”
The film's production recreates the paranoid atmosphere of a police state in which boundaries do not exist. There is always someone listening behind a door, a wall or a curtain, someone lurking in the shadows. Bridges, cranes and other monstrous-looking infrastructure looms menacingly overhead. Even the dissidents in the film have abandoned privacy and hygiene for a philosophy of “what's yours is mine”.
DOP Jaromír Kačer's camera slithers around the scenes, intruding into the characters' bloodless faces. Barred windows and other objects press unfocused upon the audience. Marek Hart and Jakub Čech's sound engineering captures every swallow and hiccup.
Pavol Andraško's production design purposefully omits recognizable landmarks, leaving the audience in a vaguely familiar but still alien landscape. Andrea Králová's costumes less like clothes and more like stiff, ill-fitting containers for bodies.
The cast consists largely of lesser-known actors from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, with the exception of Oldřich Kaiser (I Served The King of England [+see also:
film profile], You Kiss Like God [+see also:
film profile]) in the role of Antonín's supervisor, ironically the least depraved character in the film.
Walking Too Fast is produced by Bionaut Films with co-producers Česká Televize, ALEF Film & Media Group and Pleograf and with the support of HBO and the Czech State Fund for the Support and Development of Czech Cinematography. Bonton Film distributes the film in the Czech Republic.