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Slovak women behind the camera and on screen

SLOVAK cinematography has seen a revival this year, which even the most convinced optimist would not have expected. Quartétto is the third Slovak movie to be released over the past several months and, moreover, it was granted the honour of being the opening film at the International Film Festival Bratislava.
Nobody can blame Slovak moviegoers for their widely held scepticism towards domestic cinema because the few films that have been presented in recent years were often disappointingly weak in plot or attempted to be intellectual when they simply were not. And besides that, Slovak filmmakers are expected to live up to the standards of high-quality Czech films like the Oscar-winning Kolja, directed by Zdeněk Svěrák.


A FAMILY tragedy brings three sisters together in Quartétto.
photo: Courtesy of Charlie's

Quartétto

Starring: Diana Mórová, Zuzana Mauréry, Lenka Fillnerová-Robaye, Klára Dubovicová, Ján Kroner
Directed by: Laura Siváková
Running time: 90 min.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Look out for special screenings of this movie with English subtitles.

SLOVAK cinematography has seen a revival this year, which even the most convinced optimist would not have expected. Quartétto is the third Slovak movie to be released over the past several months and, moreover, it was granted the honour of being the opening film at the International Film Festival Bratislava.

Nobody can blame Slovak moviegoers for their widely held scepticism towards domestic cinema because the few films that have been presented in recent years were often disappointingly weak in plot or attempted to be intellectual when they simply were not. And besides that, Slovak filmmakers are expected to live up to the standards of high-quality Czech films like the Oscar-winning Kolja, directed by Zdeněk Svěrák.

Director and screenwriter Siváková seems to have avoided the traps her Slovak colleagues have fallen into and made a very simple yet not naive film that speaks to a broad audience. As one might guess from the title, there are four main characters in the film - a mother and her three adult daughters.

The film highlights the tragedy of a mother who had dreams of becoming an opera singer that were never fulfilled. She makes one of her daughters 'compensate' for her failure by manipulating her into becoming one instead. The film's title is in Italian and not Slovak (kvarteto), implying a connection to opera.

Quartétto is by no means a feminist film. It is just a story about four women who would prefer to live their lives on their own but are brought together by tragic news in the family. When the mother is diagnosed with cancer, the daughters return home to take care of her and in the tense atmosphere that is created by her expected death, there is a strong need for them to reconcile their relationships.

By exploring and talking about their memories, they return to their childhood and try to understand what secrets their mother was hiding from them and why she treated each of them differently. Even though they are very unlike one another, each daughter has acquired a certain virtue or vice from the very dominant mother.

Two of the sisters are played by well-known Slovak theatre actresses; Zuzana Mauréry portrays the eldest, a mother of two who is dedicated to her husband and her children, and Diana Mórová plays the middle daughter, a flirtatious career-oriented opera singer. The trio is completed by Lenka Fillnerová-Robaye in the role of the youngest sister, an introvert who does not have enough courage to sort out her life and is having an affair with a married man.

The director has given her cast a large playground and they have used it well. Even though some of the dialogue is predictable and peppered with clichés, viewers can really relate to the characters and the dilemmas they face.

The movie was a low-budget project, shot using a digital camera in only 21 days. The use of a hand-held camera creates a feeling of authenticity with its slightly shaky photography, and allows for many close-ups, which make the movie very touching. It is the first time this procedure has been used in Slovakia and it is definitely an encouragement to young filmmakers, since it makes the cost of shooting much lower than with a 35mm camera.

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