Fair Play: The moral heroes of the recent past
by Martin Kudláč
- Andrea Sedláčková’s third feature continues in the wake of recent successful Czech films with an ode to moral heroes
Andrea Sedláčková has taken up the torch from the critically acclaimed, generally lauded and award-winning domestic films In the Shadow [+see also:
film profile] and Burning Bush [+see also:
film profile]. Her new feature, Fair Play [+see also:
film profile], is also set in the socialist era – but it also competes with those titles in terms of quality. One of the current and persistent trends in Czech cinema is the portrayal of not-so-distant times during the communist era and the heroisation of people who were able to stand up against the regime, despite them jeopardising their own quality of life or even their very existence.
Fair Play tackles doping in sport and the dilemma of immigration. Whether or not to leave a nation is a question well known to Andrea Sedláčková, who left the country in 1988 and has been living alternately in Prague and France ever since. She is known for making television films and features in the Czech Republic, whilst being an editor in France (where she was nominated for the César for Best Editing for Welcome [+see also:
interview: Philippe Lioret
film profile]). As the author of the screenplay, Sedláčková used the underexplored theme of the state’s illegal boosting of national athletes’ performance to demonstrate well-being in Soviet Bloc countries, a common PR technique used by totalitarian regimes.
Young, aspiring athlete Anna (played by rising Slovak star Judit Bárdos) is training for a qualification that could enable her to be accepted in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. She trains every day under the watchful eye of her trainer (Slovak actor Roman Luknár) until the upper echelons of the state spot her talent and decide to fast-track her career: thus, Anna becomes part of a state-run project for research into the use of illegal anabolic steroids. She soon realises what is happening as a number of side effects start to have a negative impact on her health. Her moral choice is to attempt to earn her Olympic medal without using a forbidden substance, a decision that her superiors disagree with, leaving Anna´s career at stake.
The sub-plot plays on the idea of immigration through the eyes of the protagonist´s mother (Czech actress Aňa Geislerová). Her husband left them both, an action that has taken its toll on the mother´s career, as she is unable to find any job better than that of a cleaning lady. She does not want her daughter to repeat the same mistakes, and thus she sees an opportunity for her to emigrate through her participation in the Olympics. The suspense is maintained through both plotlines: Anna falls in love, which takes her mind off emigration, while her mother keeps helping dissidents, thus constantly thrusting herself into the spotlight of the secret service.
Sedláčková has penned a well-structured and smooth screenplay, and has a knack for developing her characters. However, the story and the topic are not the only praiseworthy aspects of the film. Telling a story against a different historical backdrop is always a challenge for cinematographers. Jan Baset Střítežský (who also lensed Zuzana Liová´s The House [+see also:
interview: Zuzana Liová
film profile] and Tomás Luňák´s Alois Nebel [+see also:
film profile]) opts for less saturated images and more dimmed lighting, in comparison to the all-colours-blazing Tender Waves [+see also:
film profile] by Jiří Vejdělek, invoking less-than-cheerful nostalgia. Taking into account Fair Play’s powerful storyline, as well as its impressive execution, the film will undoubtedly follow in the footsteps of In the Shadow and Burning Bush.
Fair Play is a Czech-Slovak-German production by Negativ Film, co-produced by Departures Film, Arina Film and Barrandov Studios. Distribution is handled by Falcon in the Czech Republic and by Saturn in Slovakia.
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