Review: ‘Marta’

Modest yet moody, rural three-hander "Marta" enthralls on the strength of its intuitive camerawork and focused perfs. Already a presence on the film festival circuit following its August 2006 domestic bow, pic will enjoy low-key success on all platforms and reps a solid calling card for fresh-from-film-school filmmakers.

Modest yet moody, rural three-hander “Marta” enthralls on the strength of its intuitive camerawork and focused perfs. Already a presence on the film festival circuit following its August 2006 domestic bow, pic will enjoy low-key success on all platforms and reps a solid calling card for fresh-from-film-school filmmakers.

As winter approaches, 17-year-old Marek (Vojtech Stepanek) works to help his never-named impaired father (Jan Novotny) manage their remote farm while dodging soldiers from a war that is heard but never seen.

While tending to his traps, Marek discovers he’s snared Marta (Petra Spalkova), a clearly terrified apparent spy who’s suffered a broken ankle. While she recuperates in the farmhouse, her very presence further destabilizes a father-son relationship already on the verge of adolescent rebellion.

Quietly assured pic is the graduation project of debuting helmer Marta Novakova. Working with unerringly efficient handheld camerawork (by talented first-time d.p. Matej Cibulka), she creates a world of cold foreboding that chillingly uses blood as an ongoing visual motif. Acknowledged debt to Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky is apparent; less so is the influence of Novakova’s mentor, revered Czech helming vete Karel Kachyna, whose rarely seen 1966 drama “Carriage to Vienna” is a clear inspiration.

Trio of thesps mesh effortlessly, with chameleonlike Spalkova matching up nicely against Novotny’s brooding and Stepanek’s adolescent confusion.

Tech credits are trim and precise. Pic won Novakova a first-film award from the student jury at the 2006 Cottbus fest.

Marta

Czech Republic

Production

A Bonton release (in the Czech Republic) of a Fresh Films production. Produced by Eva Pospisilova, Marta Novakova. Directed by Marta Novakova. Screenplay, Jan Coufal, Novakova, based on the short story by Coufal.

Crew

Camera (color), Matej Cibulka; editor, Simon Spidla; music, Dorota Barova; art director, Jiri Sternwald; costume designer, Katerina Stefkova; sound (Dolby SR), Petr Kapeller. Reviewed on DVD, Sydney, April 9, 2007. (In Pusan, Sao Paulo, Cottbus, Bratislava, Cairo, Gothenburg, Sofia, Finale Plzen Film Festivals.) Running time: 77 MIN.

With

Petra Spalkova, Vojtech Stepanek, Jan Novotny.
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