Small in scale but perfectly proportioned, contempo drama “The House” marks talented Slovak helmer-writer Zuzana Liova as the equal of regional contemporaries such as Bohdan Slama and Alice Nellis when it comes to making universal the small, poignant moments of everyday life. Remarkable for its depth of characterization, this sensitively observed, intelligently made realist tale of generational conflict, set in a remote Slovak village where old grudges die hard, will find a welcome mat at fests worldwide.

Ambitious teen Eva (Judit Bardos) is about to graduate from high school and eager to experience the world outside her pokey hometown. Meanwhile, her dour, controlling father, Imrich (Miroslav Krobot), a foreman in the local bottled-water plant, is painstakingly building her a house on the family property.

Eva’s older sister, Jana (Lucia Jaskova), succeeded in leaving the family nest seven years before, and the house Imrich was constructing for her stands as a half-finished reproach to all that he represents. Never mind that Jana, her ne-er do well hubby (Marek Geisberg) and three kids are now in financial difficulty with nowhere to live — Imrich refuses to let his wife (Tatjana Medvecka) and Eva have anything to do with them.

Despite the constant buzzing of Eva’s cell phone (signaling that her father wants her help with the construction project), she manages to spend stolen moments with handsome older neighbor Jakub (Marian Mitel), who turns out to be her English teacher, and worse, the married father of two.

Never overstating, and not without comic moments, Liova’s tightly constructed screenplay (winner of ScripTeast’s 2007 Krzysztof Kieslowski award for Central and Eastern European script) grants equal weight to meaningful looks and repeated gestures as well as dialogue, making actions speak louder than words about expectations and desires. Thesping is aces across the board, suggesting reams of backstory.

Graceful, unobtrusive tech package supplies artful intimacy rather than docu grit.

The House

Slovakia-Czech Republic

  • Production: A Fog'n'Desire Films, Samastinor, Czech Television, Slovak Television, Sokol Kollar production with support from Eurovia, Czech State Fund for the Support and Development of Czech Cinematography, Slovak Audiovisual Fund, Eurimages, Ministry of Culture Slovak Republic, Publicis Prague, Media. (International sales: Fog'n'Desire, Prague). Produced by Viktor Taus, Michal Kollar. Directed, written by Zuzana Liova.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Jan Baset Stritezsky, Juraj Chlpik; editor, Anna Johnson Ryndova; music, Walter Kraft; production designer, Pavol Andrasko; costume designer, Katarina Holla; sound (Dolby Digital), Lukas Moudry. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 11, 2011. Running time: 105 MIN.
  • With: With: Judit Bardos, Miroslav Krobot, Marian Mitel, Tatjana Medvecka, Lucia Jaskova, Marek Geisberg. (Czech, Slovak dialogue)
  • Music By: