Review: ‘The Bed’

Part homage, part revisionism, "The Bed," from the Czech Republic, recalls the style and tone of productions from the region that caught the world's attention in the 1960s. A heady, fanciful yarn ironically subtitled "The Czech Pornotragedy," pic grapples with the battle of the sexes in a wry, philosophical manner. Though uneven, this first feature from Oskar Reif demonstrates budding talent that could generate some specialized theatrical play in upscale territories.

Part homage, part revisionism, “The Bed,” from the Czech Republic, recalls the style and tone of productions from the region that caught the world’s attention in the 1960s. A heady, fanciful yarn ironically subtitled “The Czech Pornotragedy,” pic grapples with the battle of the sexes in a wry, philosophical manner. Though uneven, this first feature from Oskar Reif demonstrates budding talent that could generate some specialized theatrical play in upscale territories.

Title refers to something both literal and figurative: It’s the place where life and death occur for the central character, Lubosh (Michael Przebinda). It also provides him with the one place where he feels secure, whether he’s alone or with someone else.

Lubosh concedes that his life has been dominated by women. His father abandoned the family when he was a boy, and the other men on hand are weak or possess limited skills of perception. The women are not only focused, they are Lubosh’s primary influences. After his death (which occurs early on), he fantasizes a kangaroo court that consists almost entirely of femmes sitting in judgment of his conduct on Earth.

Reif strives for a contemporary allegory on life, sexuality and politics. But somehow in the post-glasnost era the immediacy of such concerns has dissipated. He further removes the story from the here and now by filming in black-and-white , which, rather than lending a sense of timelessness to the tale, roots it in a period long past. That, too, softens pic’s impact.

But there’s still much to be enjoyed, from the droll commentary to the stunning widescreen monochromatic images of d.p. Igor Luther. Przebinda embodies the seemingly ordinary guy, a compassionate cipher with an innate warmth that accentuates his vulnerability. He navigates the trek through death and life, and through the real and imagined, as if there were no borders.

Though “The Bed” is perhaps a bit too neat and tidy to be completely satisfying, it’s a compelling view of an individual and the society in which he lives.

The Bed

(COMEDY-DRAMA -- CZECH -- B&W)

Production

A Barrandov Biografia/Etamp Film/Ceska Televize/Cinecam GmbH co-production. (International sales: Eurocine, Paris.) Directed, written by Oskar Reif.

Crew

Camera (b&w, widescreen), Igor Luther; editor, Ludek Hudec; costumes, Simona Rybakova; assistant director, Marek Juracek. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Critics Week), May 17, 1998. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Lubosh Urna ..... Michael Przebinda Olga ..... Stanislava Jachnicka Vera ..... Jana Hruskova Young Lubosh ..... Martin Stavel Babicka ..... Sylva Langova-Williams Eduard ..... Jiri Hasil
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