Anchored by a risk-taking, precisely calibrated perf from Czech vet Ivan Trojan as a mentally challenged townie shunned by his peers and ultimately jailed, “Vaclav” is an unorthodox yet involving rural drama, culled from true events, that blends elements of “Rain Man” and “My Sweet Little Village.” Fest interest will be keen, with arthouse biz possible and regional ancillary a given.
Fortyish Vaclav Vingl (Trojan), nicknamed “Inajiffy” for his nervous energy, lives with his exasperated mother Vlasta (Emilia Vasaryova) in the family farm on the outskirts of a picturesque rural hamlet. Developmentally disabled and possessed of a mischievous streak that borders on the dangerous, Vaclav is haunted by the mysterious 1978 death of his father (Martin Pechlat), who visits him with regular counsel, clad in a vintage track suit.
Tired of pranks that include being shot at, brother Frantisek (Jan Budar) and the town mayor (Jiri Labus) plead with Vlasta to have him committed. When Frantisek’s mistress Lida (Sona Norisova) begins to take a romantic interest in Vaclav, a showdown between the siblings is inevitable, and tragic.
Story is based on true events involving a prison amnesty program instituted by then-President Vaclav Havel in the early 1990s. Close on the heels of his first two features, “Holiday Makers” and “Roming,” helmer Jiri Vejdelek proves himself adept with story flow and ensemble casts.
Trojan’s stock-in-trade is playing men of authority gripped by deep-rooted eccentricities, and his fascinating, commanding Vaclav never approaches excess or caricature. Budar leads a fine supporting cast that suffers only from the too-sparing use of Petra Spalkova as Frantisek’s wife.
Tech elements are seamless, with Jan P. Muchow’s stirring score a major plus. Pic rocketed out of the Czech B.O. gate in early December, earning $1.5 million in its first nine weeks of release.