I, Olga Hepranova (2016) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2016]

iolgaWhat pushes someone to once day decide they have had enough and that the only solution to be understood is to commit mass murder?

In 1973, in Prague (Czech Republic), 22 year old Olga Hepranova drove a truck into a waiting crowd, hitting 25 people and killing 8 of them.  The film is the story of how Hepranova got to this massacre. Taking on the hard task of writing this story for the screen without falling into sensationalism or exploitation, writers Roman Cilek, Tomas Weinreb, and Petr Kazda, they took a delicate subject and turned it into a touching and beautiful story of a girl who feels as though she is being bullied and who has a long period of bad luck.

After long enough of asking for help and not receiving it, she decides to take drastic measures.  They do not build Hepranova as a martyr or anti-hero but simply as a complex human being in need of help. Directors Petr Kasda and Tomas Weinreb took this script they co-wrote and turned it into a beautifully sad tale of a woman who possible could have been saved.  The way they shot the film, in tandem with cinematographer Adam Kozakl in black and white and with very somber tomes is sublime.  It takes this very heavy subject matter and make it bearable to watch.  They craft a film that mesmerizes its audience while making them just a bit uncomfortable.

As so much of the film rests on her shoulders, the part of Olga Hepranova had to be cast perfectly.  Actress Michalina Olszanska (mesmerizing in The Lure) was chosen and she is perfectly gloomy and fantastic.  She clearly understood the depth and seriousness of the part, never over acting, always giving her all and stepping in Hepranova’s shoes, no matter how uncomfortable the process looks.  She loses herself in the part and shows tremendous talent, proving that she is a start to keep watching.  The rest of the cast is also very good to great with one stand, Klara Meliskova, as Olga’s cold, unloving mother.

She shows how one woman can be there and take care of basic needs for her child while showing absolutely no love or affection toward that child.  Most characters are played as cruel or cold, except for the character of Miroslav, a man who tries to help Olga but has his own problems.  This part is played by Martin Pechlat who brings a bit of light to the film by not being as serious as the rest of the cast.  However, this is not in a funny or goofy way, but by showing just the right amount of light, even though highly flawed, to Olga’s life and the film.

The film is a must for fans of 70s Eastern Europe.  The costumes by Aneta Grnakova and the art direction by Alexandr Kozak are perfectly on point.  They give a great idea of what Prague and its people looked like in 1973.  They do a very detailed job, bringing the era to life. I, Olga Hepranova is a somber film with a dark subject that is a part of Czech history.  It was important that filmmakers behind the film pay attention to details and that they be careful to not over-dramatize the story.  They do this while creating a perfectly gloomy film that should make any audience feel something.

The very timely subject matter of a mass murderer running people over with a truck is unfortunate but it should not keep people from seeing this film when the genre, style, or subject matter is something they would like to watch.  This is not a film that is a feel good one; on the contrary, it’s depressing, sad, and beautiful.