Beauty in Trouble is the award winning film by Czech director Jan Hrebejk. The film surprised audiences at festivals around the world with its impressive cinematography, top notch performances, and subtle yet powerful messages on love, loyalty, family, guilt and redemption. The film mixes cinema genres as comedic and dramatic situations help tell the story of a woman who is torn between her personal desires and what is in the best interest of her and her family.
The film follows Marcela (Anna Geislerova) a young woman whose family has come into hard times due to the fact that a severe flood has wiped out their home. Her husband Jarda (Roman Luknar) has had to resort to car theft in order to make ends meet, and uses the family’s dilapidated house as a chop shop. The first interaction between husband and wife is a bitter argument over his current career choices and his lack of interest to their chronically ill son. After the argument is over Marcella threatens to leave home, but Jarda passively dismisses her, suggesting that she has made this threat on numerous occasions. Directly following the argument the film then cuts to a passionate if not aggressive love scene between the two. We are then introduced to Marcela’s mother who is caring and supportive but also judgmental, and her husband Richie who is needy and manipulative and harbors a certain degree of resentment for Marcela and her children. Eventually Jarden steals a car that is equipped with a tracking system and is promptly arrested. When Marcela arrives at the police station she meets an older man named Evzen (Josef Abrham) whom she is instantly intrigued by but soon learns that he is the owner of the car that her husband has been arrested for stealing.
The film shows Evzen as a wealthy educated and well traveled man who is equally intrigued and attracted to Marcela. Evzen continues to pursue Marcela and eventually the two begin a sensual and intimate relationship, and at the insistence of Evzen (and her uncle Richie) she decides to take her children and move into Evzen’s extravagant Italian villa. Evzen develops a great relationship with her children and Marcela lives the life of a wealthy mistress, a far cry from the aggressive and argumentative relationship that she had with Jarden.
While she is in Italy her mother passes away and she is forced to return home, while simultaneously Jarden has completed his prison sentence and wishes to reunite with his family. Having committed herself to Evzen and the benefits of her luxurious lifestyle, Marcela is torn between the two men. After her mothers funeral she returns to Jarden’s house for dinner where he seduces her into another aggressive sexual encounter. Afterwards Jarden remarks to her that he knew she would come crawling back to him. Disgusted by his self assurance Marcela storms out with her two children and returns to the hotel where Evzen is waiting. She informs him that she did in fact sleep with her Jarden, and he responds by striking her violently across the face. The two then have a intimate embrace and the film then cuts to Evzen’s villa where Marcela and her children appear to be enjoying themselves in their new surroundings. Marcela and Evzen appear to be a happy couple, but she then proceeds to got to her room and call Jarden. The film concludes with her pleasuring herself to his words over the phone.
The main driving force of this film is the performance of the actors. Anna Geislerova portrays a woman whose entire life is a conflicting mess with no real direction. Her every action appears to be dictated by those around her and she has never been given what she truly desires. When she was in the relationship with the aggressive Jarden she yearned for attention, love, and security. But when she was given these things by Evzen she yearned for the sexual passion and conflict that she had with Jarden. Ultimately she is allowed to have her cake and eat it too; unfortunately it is at the price of deceiving and betraying those around her. The most memorable of the performances in the film is that of Jiri Schmitzer who portrayed Uncle Richie. He provides great comic relief throughout the film but is also symbolic of the aspect of reality that many of the characters are missing. Nearly all of the characters in the film (albeit Marcela’s children) do not see situations past their own interest, they do not seem to have any genuine love or compassion for one another, but only seem to love how the people around them make them feel better about themselves. They have veiled themselves with their own insecurities and desires, and Uncle Richie holds a mirror up to the characters per say and shows them their true selves. As in most cases people are not eager to see what they are truly like and because of this Uncle Richie is seen as a villain throughout the film.
The film is brilliantly shot particularly the contrast of the rolling hills and wineries of the Italian countryside, and the decrepit flooded Czech community. These shots show the difference between the two worlds that Marcella is torn between and the shocking realization that she finds comfort and solace in both worlds despite their polarization.
The film ran a half and hour longer that needed and many of the scenes dragged on for far two long. But the intriguing and spunky personalities of the characters will keep the audience interested throughout the duration of the film.
Beauty in Trouble is simple and competent examination on natural human behavior and how the decisions we make dictate our circumstances. The film is takes its time to give the audience a deep but never heavy handed or preachy message on family, love, and life.
Weak: 1 Star Average: 2 Stars Good: 3 Stars Very Good: 4 Stars Excellent: 5 Stars