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31 August 2008

Movie Review: A Troubling Tale about Beauty in Trouble

Beauty can, at least temporarily, overcome the boundaries of class and economics and in this case, the beauty in question in the 2006 Czech film, Beauty in Trouble (Kráska v nesnázích) is Marcela (Anna Geislerová).

She is married to Jarda (Roman Luknár) and her troubles began long ago, but the current problem are the economic woes resulting from the 2002 flood in Prague. Her house is ruined and Jarda is now reduced to working for a chop shop. They still have a healthy and passionate sex life and in their current tight quarters, her children can hear their lovemaking. Jarda is arrested for car theft and Marcela meets a much older richer man, Evzen Benes (Josef Abrham) at the police station. It is his car that Jarda stole.

Alone and with only her income, she finds herself back with her mother (Jana Brejchová) and her stepfather, Uncle Richie (Jirí Schmitzer).

Evzen had immigrated to Italy and become a vintner and has returned now that the post-communist government recognizes his claim to the family house. He begins to court Marcela and offers her a place to stay.

Uncle Richie is more than a little creepy, offering to expose himself to Marcela's oldest child, Lucina (Michaela Mrvikova). He's more tolerable to the asthmatic Kuba (Adam Misik) but neither really like him. Yet eventually, Marcela moves in with Evzen although it is she that finally decides to begin a sexual relationship with him.

The title comes from a Robert Graves poem that was later adapted into a Czech song and in this movie is performed by a folk singer, Raduza. The line is "Beauty in trouble flees to the good angel/On whom she can rely."

This film by director Jan Hrebejk and writer Petr Jarchovsky has some creepy, unresolved aspects. We learn that Marcela's oldest child is not Jarda's. He took her in when she left home, young, jobless and pregnant. There's a suggestion that Uncle Richie might even be the father. With her children to think of, Marcela makes an economic decision, one that is easier because Evzen as portrayed by Abrham is essentially a good and patient man. If Marcela doesn't still love Jarda, we know that she lusts for him, but who wouldn't want a better life--not only for oneself, but for one's children.

Perhaps, given time, a widowed Marcela will be re-united with Jarda. Still the creepier aspects of Uncle Richie are ignored, dropped after Marcela flees her mother's apartment.

Well-acted, this movie reminds us of the realities of flooded cities and as New Orleans and other places are evacuated or declared disaster areas, that Americans have more in common with other places than perhaps we realize.

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