×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Rotterdam Film Review: ‘Filthy’

Visual acumen combined with a sensitive lead can’t fully save this promising film debut from its poor narrative choices.

With:
Dominika Morávková, Anna Rakovská, Robert Jakab, Anna Šišková, Patrik Holubář, Luboš Veselý, Juliána Oľhová, Ela Lehotská, Monika Potokárová, Alexandra Strelkova. (Slovak dialogue)

Official Site: https://www.facebook.com/pg/filmspina/about/

So many canny directorial decisions are made in “Filthy” that it’s painful to note how often the film barrels down the wrong path whenever the plot comes to a crossroads. Debuting helmer Tereza Nvotová is an extremely talented filmmaker, sensitive to how her traumatized protagonist is portrayed, yet what starts as a powerfully disturbing, if toned-down, drama about a high-schooler raped by her math teacher turns into a quasi-sensationalist screed against Slovakia’s antiquated mental health system. Rather than give profound meaning to the young woman’s hellish road from victim to survivor, Nvotová and scripter Barbora Námerová draw attention away from her inner turmoil by including overplayed family scenes and a nightmarish psychiatric facility whose chief doctor should be jailed. Notwithstanding disappointing narrative choices, “Filthy” shows off Nvotová’s strong visual acumen and is likely to see busy festival play.

Lena (Dominika Morávková) is a middle-class kid not above cutting classes for a smoke with best friend Róza (Anna Rakovská), who talks as if she’s got nothing to learn about sex. Róza brazenly hits on brooding math teacher Roberto (Robert Jakab), the school’s pin-up prof (he’s not exactly Pietro Boselli, but who is?). Even Lena’s mom (Anna Šišková) comments on his good looks, but Lena herself isn’t interested. One afternoon during a private tutorial at home, Roberto rapes and sodomizes Lena while her mother and brother Bohdan (Patrik Holubář) are also in the house. Shaken to the core, Lena shuts down and says nothing.

Tensions in the house are high in the best of times, due to Bohdan’s inability to deal with a disability that causes him a prominent limp (his volatility forms part of a very unsatisfying plot strand). While her brother explodes at his parents for inviting other disabled kids to his birthday party, Lena quietly cuts her wrists upstairs. Mom feels guilty she may have been neglecting her daughter, but she has her hands full with Bohdan, so she checks Lena into a psychiatric hospital for teens. It’s not a good idea.

Since the rape, Lena has turned completely inward and barely speaks — Morávková does an excellent job conveying pain, confusion, and a sense of absolute loneliness. At the first group-therapy session, the criminally negligent doctor (Ela Lehotská) allows other teens to bully the newcomer and doesn’t even try to control her patients. Lena bonds with roommate Iva (Juliána Oľhová), who was raped by her father, though, shockingly, the doctor refuses to believe her story. Just before Iva is discharged back to her dad, she kills herself, sending Lena into further depression. The cause of Lena’s trauma remains unknown since she’s unable to tell anyone, and without understanding what’s going on, her mother signs papers allowing her daughter to receive electroshock treatment.

In press notes, Nvotová talks about Slovakia’s dreadful mental health system and the horrific conditions inside psychiatric hospitals. She even cast several former patients as side characters in the film, presumably playing versions of themselves (the mix between professional and amateur actors is seamlessly achieved). No doubt doctors like Lena’s exist, making life a misery for people already at risk, but that needs to be a separate film, or at least one that better integrates the protagonist’s poignant trauma instead of forcing its way into the mix; sometimes reality itself needs to be toned down in order to create believable cinema.

The ending aims to offer some kind of catharsis, but by then “Filthy” has lost much of the honest power it had at the start. Morávková’s performance is strong enough to keep sympathy high, and Marek Dvořák’s edgy camera successfully reinforces Lena’s isolation as well as her vulnerability. The choice of an ultra-pale tonal palette, however, creates a frustrating distance between character and viewer that works against some of the film’s most distinguishing features. At times though, Nvotová composes images of mesmerizing intensity — such as a great surreal shot of a bridge at night with a bright band of light, little figures walking along the causeway, and a ferry below. It helps to fix Lena in a particular time and place, and has a lingering power all its own.

Rotterdam Film Review: 'Filthy'

Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (Bright Future), Jan. 26, 2017. Running time: 87 MIN. Original title: “Špína.”

Production: (Slovakia-Czech Republic) A BFilm, Moloko film, Famu, Magiclab, Sleepwalker production, in collaboration with HBO Europe. (International sales: Moloko Films, Prague.) Producers: Peter Badač, Eva Pa, Miloš Lochman, Karel Chvojka. Executive producer: Dominika Fáberová.

Crew: Director: by Tereza Nvotová. Screenplay: Barbora Námerová. Camera (color): Marek Dvořák. Editors: Jiří Brožek, Michal Lánský, Janka Vlčková.

With: Dominika Morávková, Anna Rakovská, Robert Jakab, Anna Šišková, Patrik Holubář, Luboš Veselý, Juliána Oľhová, Ela Lehotská, Monika Potokárová, Alexandra Strelkova. (Slovak dialogue)

More Film

  • 'The Dirt' Review: A Mötley Crüe

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

  • James Newton Howard Danny Elfman

    New Trend in Concert Halls: Original Music by Movie Composers — No Film Required

    Movie and TV composers are in greater demand than ever for, surprisingly, new music for the concert hall. For decades, concert commissions for film composers were few and far between. The increasing popularity of John Williams’ film music, and his visibility as conductor of the Boston Pops in the 1980s and ’90s, led to his [...]

  • Idris Elba Netflix 'Turn Up Charlie'

    Idris Elba in Talks to Join Andy Serkis in 'Mouse Guard'

    Idris Elba is in negotiations to join Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in Fox’s fantasy-action movie “Mouse Guard” with “Maze Runner’s” Wes Ball directing. Fox is planning a live-action movie through performance capture technology employed in the “Planet of the Apes” films, in which Serkis starred as the ape leader Caesar. David Peterson created, wrote, [...]

  • Zac Efron Amanda Seyfried

    Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried Join Animated Scooby-Doo Film as Fred and Daphne

    Zac Efron has signed on to voice Fred Jones while Amanda Seyfried will voice Daphne Blake in Warner Bros.’ animated Scooby-Doo feature film “Scoob.” It was revealed earlier this month that Will Forte had been set to voice Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, while Gina Rodriguez would be voicing Velma Dinkley. The mystery-solving teens and their talking [...]

  • 'Staff Only' Review: Cultures And Values

    Film Review: 'Staff Only'

    Marta (Elena Andrada) is 17, from Barcelona and alternately bored and mortified to be on a Christmas vacation to Senegal with her estranged dad, Manel (Sergi López), and annoying little brother, Bruno (Ian Samsó). For her, the freedoms of imminent adulthood, such as the occasional poolside mojito, are tantalizing close but still technically forbidden, rather [...]

  • Rocketman

    Candid 'Rocketman' Dares to Show Elton John as 'Vulnerable,' 'Damaged,' 'Ugly'

    Elton John movie “Rocketman” dares to portray the singer’s personality early in his career to have been, at times, “ugly,” Taron Egerton – who plays the pop star – told an audience at London’s Abbey Road Studios Friday, following a screening of 15 minutes of footage from the film. It is a candid portrayal, showing [...]

  • Ben Affleck

    Ben Affleck's Addiction Drama Set for Awards-Season Release

    Warner Bros. has given Ben Affleck’s untitled addiction drama an awards-season-friendly release date of Oct. 18. The film, which has been known previously as “The Has-Been” and “Torrance,” is directed by Gavin O’Connor and stars Affleck as a former basketball player struggling with addiction, which has led to him losing his wife. As part of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content