A dozen recovering addicts deal with their demons and deceit in the densely textured, confidently thesped drama “Rules of Lies.” Winner of two prizes, including an aud award, at the recent Finale Plzen fest, pic has has already been announced for the East of the West competish section at Karlovy Vary. Modest local biz following a late 2006 preem in a crowded holiday marketplace won’t impede fest action abroad, limited arthouse exposure and decent ancillary.
In a rambling rural farmhouse, three counselors (including “Grandhotel” ingenue Klara Issova) are overseeing 11 volunteer patients on the long road to recovery. At the story’s opening, they’re joined by Roman (David Svehlik), a successful small-businessman whose seven-year addiction to cocaine and crystal meth has landed him in rehab.
The group is polite but stern at first, forcing him into the ritual of “unlocking the pond” by jumping in — no mean feat in the dead of winter. But soon fissures begin to show in the veneer of civility. Though they’re asked repeatedly if they know one another from the outside, there’s a whiff of unfinished business between Roman and the manipulative Milan (Jiri Langmajer).
As time progresses, the web of verbal deceit is punctured by the memory of and fallout from a previous encounter, sparked by something dimly remembered by ex-junkie Tom (Igor Chmela).
Debuting writer-director Robert Sedlacek creates a tangible sense of foreboding among these damaged individuals. More noteworthy is his determined avoidance of sensationalism; from the opening frames, there’s a sense that Sedlacek the writer will take his time creating these characters, and the film as a whole is better for it. Purposely ambiguous wrap-up may not be to everyone’s taste, but is in keeping with the idea that life is full of variables.
Ensemble perfs are on the mark, with Langmajer in particular tapping into an intense level of menace. Tech credits are discreetly pro.