Kolya (1996)


In Prague in 1988 Russian trucks rumble through the streets and Czechs make an accommodation with their masters, or pay a price.

Frantisek Louka (Zdenek Sverak), a cellist, has fallen out of grace with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and is now reduced to playing music at funerals, but his nonchalance remains intact. Gruff and sly, a born seducer, he finds work or women wherever they are available without considering the consequences.

He leads a life of quiet dissipation. His favorite pursuits are musicianship, skirt-chasing and looking after his elderly mother, not necessarily in that order. Louka's mother is very vocal in her political opinions. The year is 1988, and she thinks the Russian troops occupying her country are locusts.

The story is set in motion when Louka is coaxed into a marriage of convenience. After all, he's a man who seeks out extra work restoring gold-leaf paint on gravestones, so he's open to any reasonable offer. The bride is the niece of his friend and she needs Czech papers, but there are some sticking points. For one thing, she's Russian; for another, she has a little son.

When his "wife" escapes to Germany shortly after arranged wedding he finds himself the custodian of an angelic little Russian boy. 

“Kolya” was written by its star, Zdenek Sverak, and directed by his son, Jan. It is a work of love, beautifully photographed by Vladimir Smutny in rich deep reds and browns, with steam rising from soup and the little boy looking wistfully at the pigeons on the other side of the tower window. It is said that American audiences are going to fewer foreign films these days. Missing a film like “Kolya,” winner of a 1997 Golden Globe, would not be a price I would be willing to pay.
Roger Ebert

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