EVA NOVÁ || 2015, Slovakia / Czech Republic || Drama || Directed by – Marko Skop / Written by – Marko Skop / Produced by – Jan Melis, Marko Skop, Alice Tabery / Cinematography – Jan Melis / Editing by – Frantisek Krahenbiel, Marina Andree Skop / Production designer – Erika Gadus / Starring: Emília Vásáryová / Running time: 106 mins.
Eva Novà marks the fiction feature debut of Marko Skop, who uses his documentary background to his advantage in capturing a disarming story about hopeless redemption.
This is the story of the titular character, who dominates the film’s narrative. Eva is a former actress and star of the Soviet era, now a down and out woman. When we meet her, she is leaving rehab for the third time, but is determined to get her life on track. She immediately attempts a reunification with her estranged son, who slams the door on her face. She also tries to resume her acting career, and even swallows her pride by accepting a job at a supermarket to pay the bills. Despite her strong will, she seems to be on a systematic routine of one step up and two steps back, constantly having to pick herself off the ground, and repeatedly having to dodge bullets that may lead her to seeking solace at the bottom of a bottle of vodka.
Cast in the leading role is Emilia Vasaryova, a veteran Slovak actress whose celebrated career has earned her the reputation as the First Lady of Slovak Theatre and Film. This performance ranks among her best, and certainly one of her bravest. Skop’s camera is constantly laying bare Eva’s body and soul, mercilessly exposing her at her most vulnerable and downright ugly in both an emotional and physical sense. Vasaryova’s performance never breaks down, and her composure vitally lends itself to the credibility of the film, making this unflinching portrayal so real and allowing the viewer to be totally invested in the succession of events in her life.
Her commitment and dedication to the project is also visible through the use of her own images, footage from films and newspaper clippings from her own past career, much like Gloria Swanson did in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard. In many ways, Eva Novà could well be the modern times Slovak answer to Wilder’s celebrated masterwork. Both films are dominated by their characters of the wahsed up and aged actress. However, the similarities mostly end there. The classicist approach of the Golden Age of Hollywood starkly contrasts with the handheld cinematography and minimal use of music in Eva Novà, aside from further fundamental differences in both films’ storylines.
Surprisingly, Skop’s film is also much more optimistic. Despite the serious themes that adorn and drive the intentions of the film, from estranged family ties to alcohol abuse, the film does not look for sympathy for its leading character, and we never really know too much about her backstory, because of the narrative focus on the present times. From the beginning, the film embraces its bleak tones and awkwardness. While they remain dominant throughout, the realism is also heightened by the naturalistic representation of the tragedy and comedy of everyday life. The ability to sustain the challenge of such shift in tones is another reason to praise Vasaryova’s performance. – 5/5