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Traps

A feminist comedy about rape and retribution from veteran Czech helmer Vera Chytilova, "Traps" is great fun in spots but overstays its welcome by about half an hour. Faster pacing and tighter cutting might have turned this decidedly promising material into a comedy classic, but Chytilova's languid storytelling is, in the end, a liability.

With:
Dohnal - Miroslav Donutil
Lenka - Zuzana Stivinova
Petr - Tomas Hanak
Chief - Dasa Blahova
Ingrid - Katerina Hajna
Anna - Eva Holubova
Mrs. Dohnal - Daniela Trebicka
Pavel - David Vavra
Michal - Lubos Svoboda

A feminist comedy about rape and retribution from veteran Czech helmer Vera Chytilova, “Traps” is great fun in spots but overstays its welcome by about half an hour. Faster pacing and tighter cutting might have turned this decidedly promising material into a comedy classic, but Chytilova’s languid storytelling is, in the end, a liability.

It takes a particularly long time to establish the characters and get to the incident that triggers the action — the violation of Lenka (Zuzana Stivinova), a young veterinarian, by Dohnal (Miroslav Donutil), a government minister responsible for the environment who’s egged on by his friend, Petr (Tomas Hanak) , an ad agency exec. Having consumed too much alcohol, the two men come across Lenka, who’s run out of gas, stranded on a lonely country road. They give her a ride to a remote spot, whereupon the drunken Dohnal rapes her, then knocks her unconscious.

When she recovers, she pretends to have amnesia and no knowledge of what happened. It’s a big stretch to believe that these supposedly bright guys would fall for her story and take her back to her isolated house, but that’s just what they do. There, she offers them drugged beer and, when they’re out cold, castrates them.

The sequence in which they awake and gradually realize what’s happened to them is the film’s funniest segment, and is expertly played for top comic effect by Donutil (whose agonized post-castration walk is hilarious) and Hanak.

Both men hope to have their manhood surgically restored, but Dohnal makes the mistake of leaving his private parts in the kitchen freezer; a hungry friend of the family drops by and cooks them up in a tasty omelet.

Mrs. Dohnal (Daniela Trebicka) isn’t exactly delighted with this development; nor, when he finds out about the rape, is Lenka’s boyfriend, who happens to be a Green activist and already has feelings of enmity toward the hapless Dohnal.

Meanwhile, Petr, who has his sights set on Ingrid (Katerina Hajna), the virginal daughter of a powerful businessman, attempts to solve his problems with equipment purchased in a sex shop.

Chytilova’s cheeky demolition of the macho male has all the ingredients for a first-class romp, but too much of “Traps” is padding, and the director’s love of the hand-held camera detracts from, rather than enhances, the humor.

There are the expected jokes about male double standards, sexist advertising and, in general terms, male exploitation of the opposite sex, and many of these gags are familiar. Nevertheless, Chytilova is well served by her male leads, who enter into the spirit of the nonsense with consummate professionalism and give the film its painfully comic impact.

Starting “Traps” with a sequence in which Lenka, decently played by Stivinova , is seen at work castrating a number of baby pigs is a mistake; the pain and suffering meted out to these real-life Babes is hardly the best kickoff for a comedy.

Credits are generally solid, but editor Ivana Kacirkova should have been a lot more ruthless with the scissors.

Traps

Czech

Production: A Cineart production, in association with CNTS/TV Nova/KF. (International sales: Filmexport, Prague.) Produced by Viktor Schwarcz. Directed by Vera Chytilova. Screenplay, Chytilova, Michel Laznovsky, Tomas Hanak, David Vavra, based on a story by Chytilova, Eva Kacirkova.

Crew: Camera (color) , Stepan Kucera; editor, Ivana Kacirkova; production designer, Frantisek Vokral; costume designer, Tereza Kucerova. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Perspectives), Sept. 10, 1998. Running time: 122 MIN.

With: Dohnal - Miroslav Donutil
Lenka - Zuzana Stivinova
Petr - Tomas Hanak
Chief - Dasa Blahova
Ingrid - Katerina Hajna
Anna - Eva Holubova
Mrs. Dohnal - Daniela Trebicka
Pavel - David Vavra
Michal - Lubos Svoboda

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