Running time: 98 MIN.
With: Janos Ban.
Arambling biopic of the first Slovak anti-hero, “Albert, Albert” glows with softly nostalgic lensing and an impeccably honest perf by Hungarian actor Janos Ban in the title role. Though this debut feature by TV director Jaroslav Rihak is thin on dramatic unity, the sweeping turn-of-the-century sto-
ryline that moves from Russia to Switzerland and includes Tolstoy as a character could help pic sell to Euro broadcasters.
Film opens promisingly, with reference to cinema’s 100th birthday and B&W shots showing formative moments in the character of Albert Skarvan (Ban), a doctor turned conscientious objector. However, pic then veers off to show the consequences of “one hour’s thoughts”– when he wrote the letter refusing compulsory military service.
Skarvan is stripped of his diploma, detained in a mental institution and exiled. His main claim to fame appears to be the time he spent as Tolstoy’s personal physician, and an affair he had with the novelist’s daughter. But this story, and those of his two marriages, are never satisfyingly fleshed out. When Skarvan finally is pardoned and returns home, it’s the eve of World War I and he ends up serving as a military doctor.
Rihak wrote the title role especially for Ban, best known internationally as the village idiot in Jiri Menzel’s “My Sweet Little Village.” As Skarvan, Ban again makes impressive use of his sensitive face and gangling body to change from a coltish 20-year-old student to a seasoned doc in his 60s. Attractive lensing and a melancholy score add soulful Slavic appeal.