Something Like Happiness
by Sakis Kontos
- Combining quality cinema with festival acknowledgement and box office success is a tricky task. It seems that Bohdan Slama has got the recipe with that film regarded as the pleasant surprise of 2005
Bohdan Slama is a person who does not chew his words when it comes to reveal what he likes best and what he does not.
He is an avid hater of gun culture in films and a lover of emotions. His characters are people next door rather than cartoon inspired ones. His obsessions are with the human nature rather with what the human nature produces ("it is about human emotions, everything else is the means, not the story" he argues).
Like in his previous feature, Wild Bees, Slama sets his story ("miracles of ordinary loves" as the official communiqué puts it) against a countryside backdrop, a town far away from the feel-good atmosphere of the capital Prague. In that respect there is something autobiographical about the feature; Slama also spends his family life away from the centre. But that’s not where the autobiographical influence, so to speak, ends.
His film characters might be less of a creative mind than he is but, just like him, they are full of emotion (some may call it "passion") and everyday worries which are never glorified but are exposed the way they are. Surely, it must be art to depict things the way they are in contemporary cinema.
Slama’s (and his producer’s) artistry is also in the casting. Their choice of acting talent is a proven Czech trio – Tatjana Vilhelmova, Pavel Liska and Anna Geislerova , with the first two also featuring in Wild Bees.
Slama, again not munching any words, is the first to admit that there wouldn’t be a film if it weren’t for this blessed trio of performers and the free hand that he has received from his producers, namely Pavel Strnad’s Negativ Film Productions, who, by the way, he now considers as his "own people, the ones that are on the same frequency as he is".
He has every reason to praise his producers. Filming lasted for almost two years and the film’s budget, while not outrageous by European standards, was double the Czech average at nearly € 1,5 million.
He is stunned by the success of the film at the Czech box office and the numerous awards the film has received around the world, but for him "the story (of this film) is over". He has finished it, he says, he delivered it and he is looking forward to his new project. But, no matter what he says, the story is not over yet.
In places like Czech Republic festival awards are good and are, of course celebrated. But the Oscars remain the epitome of the definition of the word "award". Slama’s previous film Wild Bees was chosen to represent Czech Republic in the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film in 2002. Back then, it might have been too early for him.
His second feature Something like Happiness (Stesti) [+see also:
interview: Bohdan Slama
interview: Pavel Strnad
film profile] is again chosen and in with a chance of being shortlisted. It is just that this time round the trip to Los Angeles in March increasingly looks like a possibility rather than a probability.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.