Review: At Full Throttle
by Kaleem Aftab
- Czech director Miro Remo makes a combative, challenging and concerning state-of-the-nation documentary
There is a commonly held belief that men going through a mid-life crisis will buy themselves a sports car or a motorbike. But what happens when you've reached 55 and are ready to splash the cash, except you don't have any credit in the bank? What if all you have are the memories of, and beliefs about, all those who have wronged you in life? To find out, watch Miro Remo's At Full Throttle [+see also:
interview: Miro Remo
film profile], which is revving its engine in the Crystal Globe Competition at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.
At the heart of the documentary is Jaroslav Vávra, from Moravia, the eastern part of the Czech Republic. He still can't seem to get over his failed first marriage, despite the fact that he's now together with autocross driver Jitka Prokipčáková, from Slovakia. Fifty-one-year-old Jitka also had a failed first marriage but is now happier as the only active female autocross driver in the Czech Republic. Jaroslav and Jitka went to the same elementary school, and he founded the DRAKKAR autocross team, which takes care of her cars and gets her ready for races. But director Remo is not really interested in the races or whether the DRAKKAR team wins or loses; he’s much more interested in the psychology of the fifty-something generation of Czechs.
To understand today, Remo looks back to the past. The opening shot of the movie has a female voice-over talking over a picture of a young Jaroslav. In the first indication that the documentary will mix humour with pain, she says that every day has the potential to be the most beautiful day we've ever lived, and then someone goes and ruins it. From such devastating beginnings, Remo has made a state-of-the-nation film with a vicious sting in the tale that holds a cracked mirror up to Czech society.
In the post-communist era, the realisation has hit that capitalism is not what it's cracked up to be. In fact, according to the third central character in the movie, Jaroslav's acerbic, fly-swatting mother, Jirina, life used to be better before democracy arrived. In communist times, Jirina was able to save money, but now there is no chance to do so. Jaroslav's relationship with communism is a bit more conflicted. In his youth, he was a miner, earning good money, but apparently, it was never good enough for his first wife. Even so, he hated communism because the communists stopped his father from running his business. Now, in the liberal-capitalist state, he can do more of what he wants, but liberty didn't bring him riches, only envy because everyone else, it seems, is a millionaire while he's in debt and ready to turn to crime.
As the documentary develops, we get more and more into the chaos of Jaroslav's mind. Reflecting his mindset, the editing and music get more chaotic and combative. The film is so well put together that even before the doc's startling finale and singsong, it's clear that Jaroslav has completely lost his way, and he's ready to blame anyone but himself for his troubles. Remo then shows how this manifests itself as nationalism and xenophobia. It's a slamming indictment of how many sections of society, not just in the Czech Republic, are convinced that the trouble with their lives is due to how other people are. People like Jaroslav are incapable of taking responsibility for their own actions, so they are willing to follow any political movement that alleviates any upset in their own lives.
At Full Throttle is a Czech-Slovak co-production staged by D1film and Arsy-Versy in co-production with Czech Television and Radio and Television Slovakia.
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