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Movie: Loners (2000)

Ying, a Chinese girl who speaks Czech, invited us to screening of a Czech movie (with English subtitles) in the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies (VES). It was the first time I saw Samotáři (Loners, 2000) and it was pretty good.

Much like in many other Czech movies, the seven central characters seem to have a pretty difficult, dirty life; the web indicates that this theme was popular among the U.S. movies in the early 1990s. Their relationships are breaking up, combining, and recombining. Another typical feature of the post-1989 Czech movies is that neither of the characters is designed to be a universally negative one and neither of them is a permanently positive character either. Also, you can see how the characters judge the features of others depending on the context; that's a very realistic feature of the movie's psychological analysis.

Ondřej is a talented and married young surgeon who has two daughters. Nevertheless, you learn that he has only studied neurobiology to prove how much he loved another woman, Hanka. He is so obsessed that he repeatedly dresses up as a plumber to get into Hanka's parents' house - a house that he repeatedly burns.

Meanwhile, Hanka has a very mixed relationship with her parents. She just decides - by tossing a coin - to break up with Petr who works in a private radio station. Hanka does not view her parents' bourgeois life as a good example but seems rather unsuccessful in creating a better environment. But she is a very flexible figure, as far as the type of her boyfriends go.

For a while, Hanka seems to have serious plans with Jakub, an innocent drug addict whose memory seems to be rather devastated by the drugs. However, the friends from his band inform Jakub that he already has another girlfriend. Hanka is disappointed and returns to her parents.

When Hanka and Petr break up, it is organized by Robert, a matchmaker who also works for a travel agency where his job is to show the life of ordinary Czech people to the Japanese tourists. Robert - who also provides Jakub with marijuana - is never serious about anything and he usually sleeps with many different women; eventually, his mother dies in a hospital and he has his own ways to deal with the depression.

Vesna (a Slavic word for "Spring") who came to Prague from Macedonia works as a barmaid - and you won't learn whether she came to Czechia in order to see her dad or UFOs. She seems pretty confused but sometimes helps the other characters from their problems.

Petr works in the radio station and he is the only one who likes his job - a job that he eventually loses. He announces to his audience that he broke up with Hanka - which is how Ondřej learns about the news that make him very happy.

Finally, Ondřej's wife Lenka is always ready to forgive him and stabilize their marriage - even after Ondřej asks a magician to make him disappear so that Ondřej can try to capture Hanka again. (The magician pays his debt because he is a brother of a victim of an important car accident - Jakub and Hanka bring the victim to the hospital and Ondřej saves his life.) She also works for the travel agency - as a translator - and eventually she has to translate some hysterical scenes among her husband's idol and her parents for 20 or so Japanese tourists who are shooting their movies during Hanka parents' dinner.

The seven characters interact in interesting and exciting ways that would be natural if Prague were smaller by four orders of magnitude. Given the actual size of the Czech capital, it looks a bit unlikely that all these events would take place among seven people, but it is kind of fun.

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