On the brink of hell

Joseph Fahim
3 Min Read

Czech film brings out Egyptian critics insularity

CAIRO: A female soldier, Marta, is wounded in an imaginary war in the Czech Republic. An old man and his son who live in a cottage in an abandoned forest, rescue her. Both men are isolated from the world and from the raging, unidentified war.

The men haven t seen a woman in years and are sexually attracted to Marta. Emotionally wrecked by her solitude, Marta starts to manipulate the son Marek. Something dreadful is deemed to happen; it s a matter of time before hell breaks loose.

For lack of a better word, Marta is the most ‘unusual’ entry in the International Competition. The small experimental film is a graduation project by director Marta Nováková, and is unlike any of the entries in this competition.

Slow-paced, morbid nihilistic, “Marta is shrouded in the shadow of Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky, whose films required much time and space to convey his vision and philosophy.

But don’t misunderstand – Marta never feels tedious or uninteresting. Matej Cibulka s remarkable cinematography portrays such a powerful feeling of threat and distress that viewers are left at the edge of their seat.

Nováková is one of the festival’s few new discoveries with a technique that ranks high amid the small number of visually inventive films screened since last Wednesday.

In many parts the camera takes a bird’s eye view of the world of the protagonists, and by the end of the film, it shifts its focus to tell another story about another war.

Her long, static shots are interrupted by quick, unflinching distorted images shot by a hand-held digital camera. Some of the shocking, brutal scenes, including a finger amputation and a rape, saw some critics walk out.

It was the open enigmatic ending, however, that left the majority of critics frustrated. A throwback to Michael Haneke s Cache and David Lynch s Mulholland Dr. , the viewer is left to reach his own conclusions.

But the critics didn’t like it. At the ensuing press conference they kept pressing Nováková to explain the end. But she stood her ground and declined to do so even after they showered her with unjust criticism.

Not surprising in a local industry accustomed to a bad diet of Egyptian sub-standard films and American leftovers

“Marta can mean anything to anyone who watches it and that s where its brilliance lies. It’s a daring first-rate art house piece from a director headed towards a very interesting career.

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