Beauty in Trouble

Director: Jan Hrebejk

Before Glen Hansard of the Irish band the Frames gave art house film fans the most surprisingly infectious soundtrack of the summer of 2007 with the smash success of John Carney’s Once, some of the same songs (including the beautiful “Falling Slowly”) were used in director Jan Hrebjk’s work, Beauty in Trouble.  

For Trouble, which is an Official Selection of the 2007 Scottsdale International Film Festival, Hrebjk re-teamed with his long-time collaborator and screenwriter Petr Jarchovsky who helped him create the Academy Award Best Foreign Film nominee Divided We Fall.

Just moments into the film we meet a young family in trouble following the devastation of their lives after the 2002 Prague floods ruined their home and uprooted them from any semblance of normalcy (American audiences may find the brief images in the beginning hard to watch without remembering Hurricane Katrina).

Finding inspiration in the Robert Graves poem for the film’s title, the movie opens as a domestic drama finding Marcela (Zelary and Something Like Happiness star Ana Geislerova), the mother of two children who makes an honest living working in a travel agency.

Employed as a mechanic, Marcela’s well-meaning but ill-advised husband Jarda (Roman Luknar) supplements his income illegally running a chop shop, much to the dismay of his devoutly religious mother.

After one of his thieves steals a wealthy man’s vehicle and the satellite system is activated, Jarda is arrested and his action not only brings incarceration but a romantic complication as well as Marcela meets the automobile’s owner the older and infinitely worldlier Evzem Benes (Josef Abrham).

As the opening of Graves’s poem (which turned into a Czech song by Raduza is performed by the singer in the film) promises, “Beauty in trouble flees to the good angel/On whom she can rely,” and Evzem takes a romantic and protective interest to Marcela, vowing to rescue her from her situation living with her shy, passive mother (Jana Brejchova) and her overbearing, dangerous and bullying husband (Jiri Schmitzer).

He takes Marcela and her children to his Vineyard in Tuscany and a delicate relationship grows increasingly more difficult after Jarda gets out of jail, a changed man and Marcela is torn by two very different kinds of love for two very different men.

In the sixth film by the duo of Hrebjik and Jarchovsky, which (according to the Karlovy International Film Festival) the men described as a work concerned primarily with “sex, money, and a good person,” audiences soon begin to question decisions and reasons for actions of the main characters.

It’s this emotional investment and intellectual involvement of a film that manages to alternately frustrate and fascinate us that lifts the film above its Czech soap opera beginnings into a work that should definitely inspire intriguing post-film discussion from audience members, who, in addition to the music by Hansard, will have numerous perceptions running through their heads long after the credits roll.