This has to be one of the most over-hyped movies I have seen for a while. My Slovak friend and I (of Czech origin) had plumped for this having read and heard good things about it. She is a film producer and director and knows a thing or two.
So when I, after half an hour, said, ‘I really don’t get this – it’s style over substance’, she agreed vehemently. From that moment on we declaimed ‘shot’ in unison over every artily composed scene – and believe me it was almost every single one, lovingly lingered over by the camera.
There is no doubt that director Ostrochovsky had film noir (it is shot in black and white) and high art in mind. His tale is of two new seminarians joining an order in Bratislava (my friend recognised the various settings) where they find themselves embroiled in a classic Church vs State conflict. It is a portrayal of the paranoid post-Soviet-invasion former Czechoslovakia, where the Church was used as a vehicle for protest and revolution. However, there is very little speech (could almost add silent movie to its genre aspirations) and it is difficult, and painstakingly dull, to work out what is going on.
I guess it could have been good – several critics think so – but we found it almost shockingly bad and retro, in a naïve and clumsy way.