LATE NIGHT TALKS WITH MOTHER (Jan Němec, 2001)

Inspired by Franz Kafka’s Letter to My Father, Czech writer-director and musician Jan Němec’s Nocní hovory s matkou is an elaborate, not quite convincing attempt to relate personal circumstances to the tumultuous political history in which they occurred. During Němec’s lifetime, a main street in Prague successively bore five different names, each reflective of a different political period. Němec also was volatile; married twice, he had numerous relationships. After Soviet tanks invaded in 1968, he lost his career, the most brilliant one of the Czech New Wave; in the mid-’70s he was forced into exile (he was offered the alternative of imprisonment), returning (from California) to resume his career in the Czech Republic
     Němec’s mother, an eye doctor, devoted time to patients while (he feels) neglecting her son. Providing continuity to Němec’s film is his use of a fish-eye lens; oval, it possesses distorting properties similar to those of a fun-house mirror. Here, its use is combined dazzlingly with motion, creating what Němec himself describes as “cubist sculpture”; at least one source claims that Němec had a video camera especially built so that this combination was possible. The fish-eye lens is supposed to indicate Mother’s seeing Spirit, with which Němec is presumably attempting to argue and “explain” himself, to resolve between them whatever needs resolving. But the result is diffuse.
     Over the years the intake of other spirits has changed Němec, who was born in 1936, from a handsome, slender young man to an overweight, unattractive old one. At one point Němec even flaunts the transformation in grotesque closeup. What a waste.
     Nocní hovory s matkou was the first feature film—the video material was transferred to film—to premiere on the Internet. It won first place in its category at Locarno.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s