Controversial Czech director Petr Vaclav returns just two years after the acclaimed The Way Out, a film about a young gypsy woman struggling between the insular norms for her community and the outside world. We are Never Alone is a haunting and yet oddly funny tale on unrequited love, personal obsessions and political delirium set in a little town somewhere in the Czech countryside.
Karel Roden – best known for his roles in Hellboy (Guillerme del Toro, 2004) and The Bourne Supremacy (Paul Greengrass, 2004) – plays a manipulative hypochondriac prone to violent outbursts. He closely inspects his own faeces with his fingers, and he attempts to wear a condom in his tongue while smoking (to hilarious results, in a sequence you are unlikely ever to forget), among other absurd idiosyncrasies. He is convinced that he is very ill, and he turns the lives of his wife and two children into a bright and boisterous nightmare. He is the repulsive kind of person who everyone knows in real life, but wish they didn’t.
He befriends a paranoid prison guard who is convinced that his former prisoners are trying to kill him. He longs for the old communist regime and abhors all immigrants, who he believes are all prostitutes and delinquents. He also has a son, whom he keeps locked in his room at night at home (presumably for his own security).
Meanwhile, the wife of the hypochondriac (most characters are never named) falls for the manager of a strip club, who in turn is infatuated with one of his workers Sylva. She is in love with her boyfriend who is in jail. No one in the film is ever alone; the problem is that they are never with the person with whom they want to be.
The creepy children actors have robotic and penetrating gazes not dissimilar to the mutant creatures in David Cronenberg’s The Brood (1979) or Fritz Kiersch’s Children of the Corn (1984), despite possessing no supernatural powers. They are also cruel and insidious, like the kids in Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon (2009), a bad omen of what future generations could bring to the Czech Republic. In Haneke’s movie, the sadistic children who would presumably grow up to become Nazis.
The film starts out in black-and-white, then switches to colour, then back to black-and-white then back again to colour. The mood oscillates between dark comedy and morbid suspense. The acting is profound and poignant, and everyone in guaranteed never to get bored throughout the 105 minutes of the movie.
On the political side, We are Never Alone is a comment on the malaises of the modern EU, particularly the fear of the outsider (the immigrant). The Czech Republic portrayed here is a very conservative and narrow-minded society, contrary to the belief that the country is highly Westernised and liberal (as one of the least religious countries in the world).
We are Never Alone premiered at the 66th Berlin Film Festival earlier this month. It is also showing as part of the 20th Made in Prague Festival in collaboration with New Social and the Barbican taking place in November and December – just click here for more information.
You can watch the film trailer below: