Friday, July 22, 2016

Fantasia '16 Film Review - I, Olga Hepnerova

Olga Hepnerova is not a normal 13 year old girl which is obvious from the first moment she appears on screen. Olga refuses to go to school because she doesn't feel like it then takes an overdose of meprobamate to prove her point. After a visit to the hospital to have her stomach pumped her mother delivers the first of many psychological attack of the film when she remarks to commit suicide you need to have a strong will something you certainly do not have.  Her family ships her off for a stint at a mental hospital for youth where she encounters same sex coupling and under age smoking for the first time. Olga suffers gang beatings in the shower after she declares that everyone should stay clear. Her quiet time in the hospital is spent reading depressing literature.

Upon her return home Olga becomes more distant from her family. Her birthday wish is to get away from her family. Shortly thereafter she sets up house in a small cabin then starts to take several laborious jobs before settling in as a truck driver. On the personal side Olga realizes that she is a lesbian beginning to openly explore her sexually although she refers to herself as a sexual cripple.

Rookie writer/directors Petr Kazda and Thomas Weinreb craft their film based on a true story. Their Protagonist on July 10, 1973, drove a truck intentionally onto a Prague sidewalk at a trolly stop mowing down 20 citizens eight of whom died. Before she committed the act she mailed out letters to the local newspapers stating that she is sentencing humanity to death for the bullying she had endured throughout her life. The directors chose to shoot their film in black and white which gives the production a sharp, crisp and clean look. An additional by product of the colour palate along with the antiquated eastern european amenities gives the the viewer a strong feeling of the old Eastern Communist block.

Polish newcomer Michalina Olszanska immerses herself in the title role. She developed a special fast paced restricted shoulder walk, sported an exceedingly bad bob haircut and a unique way to hold and smoke a cigarette that fits her character. She plays Olga throughout the entire film from the age of 13 until her execution at 23. Klara Melishovka is very understated as Olga mother. She delivers biting lines to her child but when her daughter lashes out in her direction most of the time the response is silence or indifference. Martin Pechlat has a supporting role as Miroslav. A hard drinking older Communist worker who seems to be the only person that Olga can maintain a friendly relationship with throughout the piece.

I, Olga Hepnervoa is a somber and dark tail of a neglected and abused girl who was always on the verge of pushing back until she did finally did so on a July day in 1973. The old world communist setting plays a big part in the film as does the concept of bullying which is a frontline concept in todays society. Michalina Olszanka star continues to rise with this performance alongside her work in The Lure also released this year.  The directors handle a very tough and difficult subject matter in subtle manner leaving some of the more harsher elements off screen. The story does have some slower passages and focuses in a bit too much on the lead characters quicks however overall it's a film I can recommend.

*** Out of 4.

I Olga Hepnerova | Petr Kazda / Thomas Weinreb | Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, France | 2016 | 105 Minutes.

Tags: Murder, Psychopath, Bullying, Prague, Communism, Comrade, Driver, Lesbian, Trial, Hanging.

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