Elizka (Anna Geislerová) is a resistance fighter working as a nurse in a Czech hospital. Shortly before the Nazis occupy her country, she gives blood to a poor countryman, Joza (Anna Geislerová), an act of good faith that permits the man to take her to the countryside when her resistance group is discovered and Elizka’s lover, Richard (Ivan Trojan), demands that she goes into hiding. In Zelary, Elizka encounters a community frozen in time and whose citizens regularly deal with Old Testament doom and gloom—certainly the Nazis are the least of their troubles with men beating their women, the threat of rape hanging in the air, and a cloying street urchin out-sermonizing the local preacher. Forced to marry Joza, Elizka comes to terms with the way things work in the countryside and soon finds herself living out everyone’s melodramas, falling in love with Joza and tending to the wounds of people who probably don’t deserve to live. Like Nowhere in Africa before it, Zelary may be beautifully photographed but it’s also frustratingly straightforward. In both films, women are banished to far-off lands where they cling to a familiar but no longer functional ethos. Because filmmaker Ondrej Trojan spends so very little time setting up Elizka’s way of life in the film’s Czech urban center, the cosmopolitan girl’s conversion into a country mouse isn’t exactly a memorable one. And if we never get a clear grasp of who Elizka was before coming to Zelary, or the importance of the people and things she left behind, watching her cope with the elements and bestial relations in the countryside is like watching her play a game of poker without the ante. Considering the blood ties that permit Elizka’s trip to the country, equally frustrating is Trojan’s failure to show how life in Zelary changes Elizka after the war. Still, if one removes the film’s almost superfluous bookends and looks solely at the scenes that take place in Zelary, Trojan paints an ethereal portrait of a self-destructive Eden on the brink of moral and cultural collapse.
- Sony Pictures Classics
- 150 min
- Ondrej Trojan
- Petr Jarchovský
- Anna Geislerová, c, Jaroslava Adamová, Miroslav Donutil, Jaroslav Dusek, Iva Bittová, Ivan Trojan, Jan Hrusínský, Anna Vertelárová, Tomás Zatecka, Ondrej Koval, Tatiana Vajdová
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: