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.