It begins with a Renoirian air. In the grass in a wooded park, a young couple makes love. But, while Jean Renoir would have let the two have their moment, first ants interrupt and then other, noisier urbanites on their own getaways, one of whom likens Nature to a church. The unseen couple cry for help, beginning with the girl, setting off a relay of cries, a cascade of cries. It does the trick. It empties the park. The sight of the highway into which park visitors have poured is a good gag; the girl knows other Czechs well.
We have already experienced a sharp reversal of expectation. Although they do (briefly) pop up again, the young couple are not the main characters of writer-director Jaroslav Papoušek’s Behold Homolka. Rather, the film, one of a trio about them, focuses on a family that is crammed into an uninviting apartment: an older couple, their grown son and his wife and twins. Mama Homolková has her Catholic faith to help her through a rambunctious marriage (she brings the wall crucifix to a painting of Madonna and infant on another wall to show the mother how her child turned out); but what do Luis and Hedy have to take its place?
Each member of the family—well, except the tots, who act in mischievous concert—has his or her moments in a quarrelsome, sometimes funny atmosphere, where one family member locks up her spouse and a spouse in the other couple locks himself away from everybody, including his wife. On Sunday, the “boys” want to attend a soccer match while the “girls” are off to the races, demanding that the boys join them—because on Sunday families should be together! Nothing will keep Homolka from his football; but Luis, conflicted, ends up at the races—but, drinking vodka at the concession stand, away from Hedy, who gives him hell back home for getting drunk.
In one respect Hedy is the film’s most poignant character. Trained in ballet, she provides us with a gorgeous long-shot in the park, from the perspective of her in-laws, when she extemporaneously dances with beguiling lightness. Later, Hedy, who has put on the pounds, bemoans with self-pity that approaches self-judgment, “Who knows where I would be if I hadn’t become so fat.”
This is no more soap opera than anything else in Papousek’s vulgar, testy, provocative post-1968 film. In Communist Czechoslovakia, one has one’s dreams and devolves from there.
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