We Are Never Alone: Or we always are
by Vladan Petkovic
- BERLIN 2016: Petr Václav's Forum title paints a bleak picture of an unhappy, marginalised society
Czech writer-director Petr Václav returns to the theme of a marginalised society in his fourth fiction feature, We Are Never Alone [+see also:
interview: Petr Vaclav
film profile], which world-premiered in the Berlinale's Forum. The lives of several very different characters intertwine to show that the title of the film can be taken both directly and ironically.
A grocery-shop saleswoman (Lenka Vlasáková, who worked with Václav on 2001's Parallel Worlds), who maybe also owns it – or perhaps it belongs to her father – lives with a hypochondriac of a husband (Karel Roden, probably the film's best-known Czech actorinternationally) and their two sons. A Roma strip-club/brothel manager (Zdenek Godla) often buys cigarettes there, and at the beginning of the film, he comes with one of his employees (Klaudia Dudová, who came to prominence in Václav's previous film, The Way Out [+see also:
interview: Petr Václav
film profile]), who has a small child and a boyfriend in prison. Across the street is the house of a paranoid prison guard (Miroslav Hanuš, recently seen in Three Brothers [+see also:
film profile]), who locks all the doors at all times, so his wife and son have to knock every time they want to enter a room.
They all live in a small village in the provinces, where the prison and the brothel are the only "attractions", and their lives inevitably intertwine. The hypochondriac and the prison guard become friends, and the saleswoman falls for the brothel manager, who is lovesick for his employee, who is, in turn, constantly drunk and lovesick for her jailed boyfriend. Needless to say, everybody is unhappy and looking for an exit.
Václav presents these unfortunate individuals and the part of society that they inhabit as a sign of the times. Changing from black-and-white to colour and back (shot by his regular DoP, Stepán Kucera, and edited by Florent Mangeot, whom he worked with on The Way Out), the writer-director adds in right-wing rants from the prison guard, and audio from a TV report on whether a planned highway that should run from the Baltic, across the Alps, to Portugal, would unite or further divide Europe.
The atmosphere of the film is not always as heavy as the synopsis makes it sound, but even the humour is pretty dark. It is a dynamic and engaging movie, and while the title implies that people are always connected and dependent on each other, it is hard to shake off the feeling that each of the characters is locked up in a cage built of his or her own psychological problems, unable to help themselves, and unwilling to help others.