Just when you thought it was safe to see a foreign film
Little Otik, as titled for the very first film shown in the newly christened Starz Film Center run by the Denver Film Society - sure it's basically the old theaters at the Tivoli with some fancy new logos sprinkled around - and the DFS has been showing films there for the Denver International Film Fesitval for years - it's just now, there'll be independent films there year round - but anyway, to finish off the sentence, this is a very absurd and fun Czech film that takes a premise and simply runs a marathon with it.
That premise? A barren couple ends up adopting a tree stump as their own child. Do you find that strange? Sure, and the film acknowledges it, and it certainly wouldn't work without that acknowledgment. The story eventually is shown to be a fairy tale brought to life.
Unfortunately, there was a framing problem whereby it didn't seem possible to get both the subtitles and the eyes of people in long shots on the screen at the same time, and we were fortunate to get the subtitles. I could be wrong, but I'm assuming there isn't a shooting style afoot here that prefers to cut off the eyes. Perhaps the best thing I can say about the movie is that with the framing problem and the language barrier to overcome, I was still enthralled by what was happening on the screen.
Visually, the camera is quite active and fascinated with many details that eventually prove to support the themes of the film. The film's overall look is frantic, which helps cover the low-budget feel. Interestingly, the technical side of many of the shots suggest either the freedom (and budget) for a lot of takes or a very skilled crew.
The story does not really provide character arcs, but deepening explorations of the characters, and actors do well all around to let us into their differing worlds. Some of the treatment is a little uncomfortable to American eyes, but as a fairy tale, this is really just a minor cultural difference, nothing for anyone to get upset about.
Disappointment set in with the abruptness of the ending, which stands in harsh contrast to the care taken in presenting a lengthy story with a lot of detail. Can I blame my expectations on the recent trends of false endings, even multiple false endings in a film? Only partially, but it's not a serious mar on the film as a whole.
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