Magazine article Variety

In the Shadow

Magazine article Variety

In the Shadow

Article excerpt


In the Shadow


Czech Republic-Fuland-Sloiakia

A slow burn leads to a powerful payoff at the denouement of Czech period drama "In the Shadow," which intriguingly brings a fllm-nolr sensibility to a time of great political tension, in much the same way Warner Bros, created socially conscious Hollywood entertainments in the 1930s and 1940s. The item will earn fest play and strong sales on the twin strengths of its Jewish themes and its status as the Czech Republic's official submission to the Academy Awards in the foreign-language film category.

In the spring of 1953, the Czechoslovak Communist Party implemented a longrumored currency reform that effectively devalued personal savings by a ratio of 50 to one. This followed by some months the most notorious of the Jewish Show Trials in Prague, known by the name of its most highprofile defendant, Rudolf Slansky, a power struggle that was really over control of direction within the communist leadership.

Flipping the chronology of these two events, screenwriters Marek Epstein, David Ondricek (who also helmed) and Misha Votruba have linked them via a plot point that is the essence of noir: one man's struggle against a corrupt system. The hero here is police captain Jarda Hakl (Ivan Trojan), an honest and determined cop whose investigation of a seemingly routine jewelry-store robbery uncovers an orchestrated effort by state security agents to detain and eliminate Jewish citizens, whom they accuse of a U.S.instigated plot to smuggle gold to Berlin to support the "Zionist separatist" war in Israel.

Hakl senses the charges are bogus, and after expending a good bit of shoe leather and deciphering an intricate murder scene, he can prove it This puts him in direct conflict with not only his soon-to-be-promoted boss, Panek (Jiri Stepnicka), but also Zenke (Sebastian Koch), a former Nazi officer and Russian prisoner who's been sent by Moscow to work the case.

Though distant from wife Jitka (Sona Norisova), Hakl is close with his boy, Tom (Filip Antonio), to whom he reads Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" Later, he uses the imagery of the giant squid as a neat metaphor to explain to Tom that someday, when the beast is tired and weak, "someone will defeat it." That someone could be Hakl, if an unlikely and uneasy alliance he forges with Zenke can hold.

In a marked change of pace from the more comedie vibe of earlier films such as "Loners," "One Hand Can't Clap" and "Grandhotel," Ondricek, who developed this from an idea by his father, noted cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek, is unafraid to lay the tale's groundwork in leisurely yet deliberate fashion. …

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