Sunday, October 19, 2014

515. Ucho/The Ear (1970)

Running Time: 94 minutes
Directed By: Karel Kachyna
Written By: Karel Kachyna, Jan Prochazka, Ladislav Winkelhofer
Main Cast: Radoslav Brzobohaty, Jirina Bohdalova


I have to be up at five o'clock in the morning and it's now nearly eleven at night. However, I just couldn't delay this review any longer. I actually finished this movie on Wednesday night, but catching a fairly nasty cold and purchasing a new flat screen TV kind of got in the way of the review. The cold's still kicking my butt, but the TV (and new blu ray!) are set up and I'm ready to write.

Chances are if you've heard of this movie, then you've also heart it compared to "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" - another film about a couple who do more bickering than cuddling. The difference here is that we're set in the Czech Republic and this movie has to do with a couple who suspect their under surveillance by their government. When Ludvik (Brzobahaty) and Anna (Bohdalova) return home from a night out a communist, political party, they first find that their keys are missing. When Ludvik climbs the gate, so that he can get into his house and let Anna in, Anna realizes that the gate is already unlocked. To further the peculiarities of the evening, when the two enter their domicile, they find that their power is out, despite the fact that just across the way, they can see that their neighbors still have lights. Later, they learn that their phone lines are also dead, but still they chalk it all up to other coincidences and surely explainable occurrences. Meanwhile, Anna hollers at Ludvik and hints that he's forgetting that today is a very special day (their anniversary). However, Ludvik has no time to make last minute anniversary plans, as he's busy piecing together the fact that his home may very well be under surveillance from his own communist brethren. He gets to work burning papers that may make "the ear" (big brother) suspicious, meanwhile batting away his wife who questions his every movement. However, when things get serious and scary, Anna and Ludvik's true feelings for one another are exposed.


I dug this movie, although I will say, I think there was a culture clash and I also think a lot of the political importance of all this went over my head. I hated the constant cutaways to the party earlier in the evening and just wished we could've stayed inside the apartment, in the dark, with Ludvik and Anna. Of course, I'm sure those cutaways were of utmost importance in trying to tell us (and the characters) why Ludvik may be under surveillance, however, I wasn't getting it. Why was he suspicious? And lets say he is under surveillance, what's the threat? Is it jail time or will they simply murder him for being a suspected traitor? As far as I could tell, it's never made clear ENOUGH why Ludvik suspects and if his suspicions are warranted, what he's afraid will happen to him. The film starts out just fine - a woman and man return home from a party and the woman can't find her keys. The man notices a car creeping in the distance and takes notice, before climbing the fence to break his way into their own home. Once inside, the two find that they are without power and phone and later, they begin to worry that they're being watched, listened to. I think if everything would've been kept more vague, instead of them TRYING to tell us why Ludvik was being monitored, it would've been a much easier watch.

Everything else was just fine though, in my opinion. The thrill and almost horror of it all. Being in the dark and worried that maybe there are microphones listening to your every comment, that people are lurking in your garden, peeping up through your windows. A hysterical wife that is both scared & looking to you for answers and irritated with you all at the same time. I loved how when it got real, the couple were fine. When their lives and the life of their son was threatened, it put everything in perspective and they held each other, while she cried and wondered what they'd do without him. I loved how that feeling passed and then returned toward the end of the film, while the two shared some time together on the balcony, watching daybreak. I thought it an incredibly sweet moment when Anna thought Ludvik had locked himself in a room and was in the process of committing suicide, that she did everything in her power, including climbing a ledge and breaking in through his window, to make sure he was okay. The film was not only a political statement, the ultimate middle finger to an oppressive government, but also a fine love story, a bittersweet one. Of course, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" is the superior couple in peril film, but had they left the detailed reasoning of "the ear" out of this one, this one could've been one to rival it.

RATING: 6.5/10  Can't rate it high enough to get it to that upper echelon of ratings, but it was a fine film and one that I'd even thank THE BOOK for having me watch.


October 19, 2014  11:14pm


  1. Good morning Andrew..
    I saw this one a fair bit ago, so the memory fades slightly.. but a great point about te similarities between this and WAOVW..
    To pick up on one point you made.. The lack of knowledge about what is going on.. I think you say "what is the threat".. what are they facing? Well, I think that adds to it.. In a Soviet occupied era, under any oppressive regime, it's the 'not knowing what you have done wrong' that adds to the oppressiveness. Like in 'The Trial'.. What has K done? We don't know.. he has no idea either.. It all makes it harder to defend himself.. Likewise here.. what MAY we have done.. or more scary.. what might we do at any time that will get us into trouble...
    Imagine it this was.. You are driving along a road. You know there are lots of hidden speed traps on this road. A sign says 'Obey the speed limit'.. but it doesn't say what the limit is. You stop and ask a (visible) policeman "What is the speed limit on this road?" He tells you "you should know.. what speed have you been doing?" Gulp. what do you say? "Errr...20MPH???" He looks stern.. "Thats dangerously too slow.. speed up a bit, and next time, we arrest you if you go too slow or too fast"
    So you continue on your journey.. How fast should you go? 40? 50?.
    If you know it's a 50 zone, and you find yourself doing 55.. well you can do something about it.. and if stopped.. well fair enough.. you took that risk.. but not knowing ?
    See.. THAT's scary...

    1. Great point! And now I think I need to watch the movie again, with that thought in mind....that the unknown is the scary part. However, I can't shake the feeling that if I just KNEW what the threat was, I would've enjoyed it more...


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