SHARK IN THE HEAD (Mária Procházková, 2004)

Oldřich Kaiser plays Seman, a fiftyish solitary soul who generally wears nothing but his underwear, and whose street-level Prague apartment is his window on the world. He is the lonely protagonist of Mária Procházková’s threadbare Czech film Žralok v hlavě that attempts to convey his feelings and schizophrenic focus (or non-focus) through a somewhat artificial urban mise-en-scène—I was reminded a little of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989)—and the application of a nifty range of optical tricks, including speed-motion, and even animation. Seman is resigned to his difficult existence, rationalizing that “everybody has a shark in his head.” Of course, he cannot possibly know this. It is therefore pure accident that he happens to be right.
     This is a distressing though sometimes humorous film (the Czechs invented quirkiness, after all), and some of the visions that beset Seman outright disturb. Perhaps the film’s finest aspect is its lack of narrative continuity as an expression of Seman’s inability to connect the dots and create a “story” for himself. The world keeps surprising him, sometimes for the better, sometimes not.
     I must confess: the film didn’t move me the way I kept feeling that Procházková wanted it to. It is a slight thing, perhaps even a whimsical whitewash of mental illness.

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