Review: ‘The Cow’

Also with: Valerie Zawadska, Viktorie Knotkova, Antonin Molcik, Zenek Dusek.

Also with: Valerie Zawadska, Viktorie Knotkova, Antonin Molcik, Zenek Dusek.

Veteran Czech director Karel Kachyna, best known for his long-banned Kafkaesque “The Ear,” turns to rural drama with this modest but well-executed effort. Fest berths await.

Opening suggests a fable tenor as solemn young protag Adam sets out to sell the cow that provides livelihood for himself and an ailing, former-prostitute mother. Unlike Jack and the beanstalk, however, Adam’s adventures are ruled by harsh reality. He returns with expensive morphine for his (presumably syphilitic) ma, only to find her already dead. Adam must perform backbreaking work at local quarry to survive.

Despite low social skills and his “oddity” status (a childhood fall misaligned his shoulders), Adam attracts interest from the local butcher’s mistress. He first chases Rosa off his hillside home with a whip, then rapes her in the barn, yet they soon settle into happy, albeit unwedded, domesticity. Storyline brings things tragically full-circle, though close is reasonably upbeat.

Rather plain tale could use a more distinctive p.o.v. to lend Adam’s pawn-of-fate trials greater resonance. Period ambiance (circa 1900) is mild in this time-removed, remote setting; sepia childhood flashbacks don’t add much psychological dimension, though Radek Holub as Adam limns a credible mix of gloom and tenacity. Other perfs are adequate.

Made for Czech TV, “The Cow” lands stylistically between pastoral balladry and straight-up realism; results are unmemorable but have quiet appeal. Lovely, delicate photography of the verdant mountain scenery is strongest element in polished tech presentation.

The Cow



A Czech Television presentation. Produced by Helena Sykorova, Karel Skorpik. Directed by Karel Kachyna. Screenplay, Kachyna, Karel Cabradek, based on the novel by Jan Prochazka.


Camera (color), Petr Hohjda; editor, Jan Svoboda; music, Petr Hapka; production design, Jiri Zavrel; costumes, Jana Smetanova; sound, Jaroslav Novak; assistant directors, Renata Kindlova, Katerina Kohut. Reviewed at the AMC Kabuki 8, San Francisco, April 20, 1994. (In S.F. Intl. Film Festival.) Running time: 86 MIN.


Adam ... Radek Holub Rosa ... Alena Mihulova
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