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KARLOVY VARY 2023 Proxima

Review: Brutal Heat

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- Social surrealism flourishes in the Gen Z-centred coming-of-age road movie directed by debutant Albert Hospodářský

Review: Brutal Heat
Vincent Hospodářský in Brutal Heat

The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival has emerged as a launchpad for the freshest batch of Czech filmmakers. This vibrant new generation is making its mark across genres and formats, with one prevalent trend being low-budget ventures that refuse to let financial constraints hamper their cinematic ambition. Among this dynamic collective is Šimon Holý, who made his debut with the Czech mumblecore film Mirrors in the Dark [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Šimon Holý
film profile
]
. This movie kickstarted his career, and he is now working on the big-budget project Thinking David (see the report). The spotlight this year is on documentary filmmaker Albert Hospodářský, whose graduation film Brutal Heat [+see also:
trailer
interview: Albert Hospodářský
film profile
]
, also his feature-length directorial debut, has taken its first bow in the Proxima competition, much like Mirrors in the Dark did.

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Brutal Heat begins with an unexpected prologue, featuring a shard of the Sun hurtling towards the Earth. The celestial incident has two ramifications: the approaching object causes temperatures on Earth to rise, and it poses the potential risk of eradicating mankind. The film then transitions from the vast expanse of space to a small flat in a quiet town where the protagonist, 18-year-old Vincek (Vincent Hospodářský), languishes amidst the oppressive summer boredom. Enticed by his friends and the promise of a cooler room and more fun at a cottage, Vincek embarks on a bizarre road trip.

Brutal Heat presents a Generation Z-centred coming-of-age story that focuses less on the trials of youth, and more on capturing the mindset and sociopolitical environment they are grappling with. The film delivers a generational statement laced with sardonic undertones, set in motion by Vincek's first interaction with older people on a train ride that rapidly escalates from casual chatter to surreal inter-generational conflict. Vincek's journey transforms him into an embodiment of the zeitgeist of his generation. Despite many zany detours, however, he remains largely stoic in a world gone mad.

The astronomical event in the film serves as a thinly veiled metaphor for climate change, used to emphasise social and psychological constraints. Brutal Heat shares characteristics with social satire; however, Hospodářský downplays the caricature element to highlight the societal context shaping the young generation. Amidst the prevailing social climate and psychological tensions, the director deviates from traditional coming-of-age narratives, instead embracing lo-fi surrealism, stemming from the realism of social drama.

Brutal Heat paints a portrait of a generation navigating adulthood in a world riddled with crises – social, economic, political and environmental ones – demonstrating resilience at the expense of their own identity. The film, with its exposure of the character's true intentions and inner desires under the strain of soaring temperatures, resembles Ulrich Seidl's Dog Days, but with a Czech Gen Z coming-of-age spin emphasising not so much disillusionment, but rather constant bemusement over the direction the world is headed in.

Brutal Heat was produced by Czech outfit nutprodukce and co-produced by Slovak company Punkchart Films. Artcam Films handles the Czech theatrical release.

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