Kolya: Czech Director Jan Sverak’s Popular Foreign-Language Oscar Winner

Czech director Jan Sverak’s sentimental yet touching melodrama, Kolya, is one of the most popular Oscar winners in the Best Foreign Film Language category.

The film earned $5.7 million at the domestic box-office alone, largely due to Miramax’s successful marketing campaign, and the soft and noble nature of the film, which in its middlebrow sensibility resembles  a reworking of the American classic, The Champ.

Our Grade: B- (*** out of *****)

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The good actor Zdenek Sverak plays Frantisek Louka, a middle-age talented musician in Czechoslovakia who once made a good living playing in the State Symphony Orchestra. However, his political views–he puts a playfully insulting statement on a government form—lead to his banishment, and he now makes a living by giving private lessons, painting gravestones, and performing at funerals.

An appealing man, Louka is a happy womanizer, with no familial duties or obligations. However, when a friend suggests marriage to a stranger, Louka considers the matter more seriously than expected. Broz (Ondrej Vetchy), a gravedigger and a good friend of Louka’s, has a niece, Nadezda (Irena Livanova), with a young son who wants to stay in Czechoslovakia. Problem is, she’s a Russian citizen and lacks the legal papers.

In order to stay, Nadezda needs to marry a Czech citizen; she and her aunt are willing to pay for a “husband.” Hard up for cash and in need of a car, Louka grudgingly agrees to the arrangement and weds Nadezda. Once she gets her papers, Nadezda heads for West Germany to be with her boyfriend, and after her aunt unexpectedly dies, Louka finds himself in custody of his new stepson, six-year-old Kolya (Andrei Khalimon).

Up until now a confirmed bachelor, Louka knows nothing about raising a child. He also realizes that the new duty has a negative effect on his dating. Gradually, though, Louka and Kolya become good friends, and Louka finds his outlook on life changing and his new family role more satisfying and fulfilling than he had ever expected.

Credits

MPAA: PG-13
Running time: 105 Minutes.
Directed By: Jan Sverák
Written By: Zdenek Sverák