KVIFF 2017 – review – ICE MOTHER (“Bába z ledu,” Bohdan Sláma, 2017, Czech Republic / Slovak Republic / France)

Ice Mother posterIce Mother, already a box-office hit of the Czechoslovak territory, was screened as part of the Czech films strand of the 52nd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Bohdan Sláma’s film revolves around a 60-something-year-old lady, Hana (Zuzana Kronerová) and her unexpected late-life romance with an elderly ice swimmer, Broňa (Pavel Nový) – a drifter living in a caravan with his beloved hens. Broňa’s

Broňa’s earthy outrageousness immediately clashes with Hana’s self-absorbed and ignorant sons, Petr (Marek Daniel), an underpaid loser with money problems, and Ivan (Václav Neužil), a snobbish businessman. In their selfishness, they also fail to notice their respective families are slowly falling apart. The latter, for instance, fails to notice that his son Ivanek (Daniel Vízek) has serious problems: he is bullied in school and has trouble connecting with people. Broňa’s arrival disturbs the uneasy balance of

Broňa’s arrival disturbs the uneasy balance of Hana’s family. He also becomes a father figure to Ivanek: here’s finally someone who pays attention to him, a male figure for him to look up to. More importantly, Hana’s love for Broňa reinvigorates her, makes her stronger sensually and sexually (she even takes on ice swimming!). Sláma’s film, however, is hardly as adventurous as its protagonist. Ice Mother‘s representation of the family structure carries the spirit of the Czechoslovak New Wave – unsurprisingly, given Sláma’s poetic feature debut The Wild Bees, from 2001, which also carried such influences. Even its representation of the aging process feels very realistic, daring to show things arguably never seen before in other similar titles (a love-making sequence involving olive oil immediately comes to mind).

However, its narrative structure is very conventional Hollywood-style. Further, some of Ice Mother‘s subplots are quite underdeveloped, especially those regarding Ivan and Petr’s character development. (Despite this, the film won the Best Screenplay award in Tribeca earlier this year.) For all its imperfections, Ice Mother remains a noteworthy effort. Though the narrative is inconsistent, the style of the film is very compact. The film’s deadpan, dark humour resonates perfectly in the gray colour schemes of a winter Prague; and Kronerová’s turn as Hana, quiet and restrained, is, on the other hand, quite remarkable. – ★★★

BÁBA Z LEDU || 2017, Czech Republic / Slovak Republic / France || Directed by – Bohdan Sláma / Produced by – Pavel Strnad, Petr Oukropec / Written by – Bohdan Sláma / Cinematography – Diviš Marek / Music by – Mardi, Petr Spálený / Edited by – Jan Daňhel / Art director – Jan Vlasák / Starring – Zuzana Kronerová, Pavel Nový, Daniel Vízek, Václav Neužil, Tatiana Vilhelmová, Marek Daniel, Petra Špalková / Running time: 106 mins.

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