‘I, Olga Hepnarová': Berlin Review

This Berlinale universe premiere dramatizes a genuine story of a mentally frail immature lady who became a impersonal killer.

A loyal story of mental illness and mass murder in 1970s Czechoslovakia, a opening film in a Berlinale Panorama territory this year is a selected blast of executive European glumcore. Clothed in radiant jazz-cool monochrome by first-time underline directors Petr Kazda and Tomas Weinreb, I, Olga Hepnarová is an artfully stern impression investigate pitched during a assembly who done Pawel Pawlikowki’s likewise retro-chic Polish play Ida into an Oscar-winning cult hit. But this relentlessly gloomy Czech-Polish-Slovak-French co-production is a obtuse work in both character and substance. Although a gay-themed tract elements will safeguard niche seductiveness and serve festival play, blurb hum will expected be lukewarm.

Born in 1951, Olga Hepnarová led a brief and uneasy life that finished in a scandalous murder case. Played by a rising Polish star Michalina Olszanska, mostly in a bobbed braid that creates her an supernatural passed ringer for a immature Natalie Portman, Olga is initial introduced as a worried teenager. A unsuccessful overdose try leads to a spell in a psychiatric hospital, where she is brutalized by her associate patients. A chain-smoking, perma-scowling, intimately restricted lesbian loner, she eventually leaves a family she despises for a array of primer jobs, primarily vital a semi-feral existence in a remote wooden cabin.

But even released from her family, Hepnarová’s trials are distant from over. The film recreates a series of her passing affairs with women, illustrated with a integrate of pithy sex scenes, though all finish unhappily. Sinking into a zombie-like state of alienation, she starts to bay dreams of impersonal reprisal opposite an uncaring world. “One day you’ll compensate for your delight and my tears,” she vows in voiceover, lines drawn heavily from a genuine Olga’s private letters.

In Jul 1973, Hepnarová finally snapped, deliberately pushing a lorry into a throng of pedestrians watchful during a Prague tram stop. Eight people died and another dozen were injured. In an allege minute posted to newspapers before a attack, she wrote: “I, Olga Hepnarová, a plant of your bestiality, judgment we to a genocide penalty.” Kazda and Weinreb reconstruct this motorized electrocute with roughly prosaic understatement, sharpened it mostly in a singular take from Olga’s viewpoint. It is a beautiful preference but, like many of their film, infrequently low on thespian impact.

Olszanska gives an impressively heated performance, if a small too unnatural during first, though conjunction she nor a film-makers ever get underneath a character’s skin. Was she unequivocally encouraged by punish for a lifetime of bullying, as she claimed, or was she pang from schizophrenic delusions, as a book teasingly hints? Kazda and Weinreb play a story distant too safe, committing to zero though a bald contribution where a small some-more conjecture and phony competence have helped figure this incongruous bio-drama into something some-more satisfyingly cinematic. They also skip an apparent contemporary angle by creation Hepnarová’s sexuality extrinsic to a story instead of recasting her as a cryptic sufferer for LGBT rights.

Composed mostly of immobile interior shots, and nude roughly unclothed of music, I, Olga Hepnarová has a cold Eastern Bloc magnificence that Adam Sikora’s frail cinematography smartly treats as an item rather than a liability. Olszanska’s magnetic, bony beauty is another accessible focal indicate in a modestly retaining entrance that never utterly musters a thespian gravitas that such an emotionally charged loyal story should.

Production company: Black Balance, Media Brigade, Love Frame, Alef Film Media Group
Cast: Michalina Olszanska, Martin Pechlat, Klara Meliskova, Marika Soposka, Juraj Nvota
Directors, screenwriters: Petr Kazda, Tomas Weinreb
Producers: Vojtech Fric, Sylwester Banaszkiewicz, Marcin Kurek, Marian Urban, Tomas Weinreb
Cinematographer: Adam Sikora
Editor: Vojtech Fric
Art director: Alexandr Kozak
Sales company: Arizona Films
No rating, 106 minutes

 

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