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September 30, 2005

Something Like Happiness, 2005

something_happiness.gifNear the halfway mark of the first week at the festival, Bohdan Slama's exquisitely rendered Something Like Happiness provides a good-natured, refreshing, leisurely paced, and satisfying palate cleanser: a slice-of-life serio-comedy on devotion, friendship, family, and missed connection. At the heart of the film is the scruffy bohemian, a perennial "sweet guy" named Tonik (Pavel Liska) who lives with his aunt in a derelict house on a scrap of land overlooking a sprawling industrial complex in which they are two of the few remaining holdouts in a proposed factory expansion project (long after other residents, including his own parents, have moved into residential apartments with all modern conveniences). Secretly carrying a torch for his childhood best friend, a beautiful store clerk named Monika (Tatiana Vilhelmov√°), his prospects for winning her heart prove ever fading when, at the start of the film, her dashing and affable boyfriend immigrates to America and subsequently sends her a ticket to join him after he secures a steady job for both of them. However, when the Tonik and Monika become unexpected custodians to a pair of young boys after their mother is institutionalized, her decision to defer her trip until her release from the hospital provides the shy Tonik with a glimmer of hope for their long awaited romantic union. Like the character Tonik, the film is also gentle and unassuming, but ultimately haunting and endearing portrait of compassion, unrequited longing, and human dignity.

Posted by acquarello on Sep 30, 2005 | | Filed under 2005, New York Film Festival


Hei Acquarello,

I finally got to see this one, but I was very dissapointed. I really do not understand why you did like it so much. Maybe beacuse it is an "exotic" film from eastern Europe? I come from eastern Europe myself, and I can understand the language a bit. Maybe thats why I can see it differently. The idea was OK, but the acting and directing was so poor! You could see it all through. The film was almost pathetic. Sweet yes, but not very deep! It was not very realistic, even though I must admit it tried to be.

This is just another feel good film from this part of Europe. I am so glad we still have Romania left! How can they make such a good movies while previous film nations like Poland, Czech Rep. and Hungary (except for Bela Tarr) can't?

Posted by: Lech on Apr 22, 2008 4:02 AM | Permalink

Hi Lech, I guess I disagree with you on this one, and I don't think it had to do with exoticism either. I mentioned part of the reason I liked the film in the first sentence, actually. This was screened in the middle of what had been a very aggressive schedule, so it was a nice change of pace. I also think there's a Wong Kar-wai aspect to the film in the way the two characters miss each other and never quite connect. It's what I see in Mungiu's Occident too, that so many young people are so determined to leave Eastern Europe for the West since the fall of communism that not even love can make they stay. It's a pretty sad statement.

Posted by: acquarello [TypeKey Profile Page] on Apr 22, 2008 9:02 AM | Permalink

I guess I understand what you mean. Maybe this was a right movie for you a the right time. And I agree, it is light, maybe too light ...

Well I do understand what director wanted to express, but I did not liked it since it is so obvious. I knew from the start what was going to happen.

The girl who plays Monika is actually the only one who plays well. I only think it is so badly realized. It looks like cliche to me, a specially beacuase I understand what director was after, and I know it supposed to be a bit like Wong.

If you really want to see a movie about Eastern Europe have a look at Andrea Arnolds "Red Road". I really do not see a difference between Glasgow and a suberb of Warsaw. It reminded me more of Kieslowskis Dekalog than anything else coming from Poland, Hungary or Czech in recent year. I liked this one very much because it look real to me. "Stesti" does not!

And I am so sad, for me Polish art film died with Krzysztof Kieslowski.

It is always interesting to read your comments. I love your site! But it takes time to see the films you write about.

Posted by: Lech on Apr 22, 2008 11:04 AM | Permalink

Hi Lech, to be fair though, you must admit that Kieslowski's a pretty tough act to follow for any Polish filmmaker, young or old. I must admit, the contemporary Polish Cinema series a couple of years ago didn't quite wow me the way that the Romanian Cinema program this year has, but I still think that there are a lot more hidden gems out there that I've yet to see, and I'm excited about that prospect.

Oh, and thanks for reminding me about Red Road, I've had the DVD for a while now and still haven't even taken the shrinkwrap off.

Posted by: acquarello [TypeKey Profile Page] on Apr 22, 2008 10:18 PM | Permalink

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