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Film / Kolya

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Kolya is a 1996 Academy Award-winning film from the Czech Republic, directed by Jan Svěrák, written by and starring his father, Zdeněk Svěrák.

František Louka (Zdeněk Svěrák) is a 55-year-old professional cellist in Prague, Czechoslovakia in the last days of Communist rule. He used to work in the Czech Philharmonic, but after pissing off a Communist bureaucrat he finds himself blacklisted, reduced to freelance gigs playing at funerals, living a bachelor life that has a surprising amount of girlfriends.

A friend approaches Louka with a scheme to make a tidy sum of money: engage in a fake marriage with a Russian single mother who wants to gain Czechoslovak citizenship. Louka does so, and gets a fat chunk of cash that allows him to buy a car and repay his debts. Unfortunately, this backfires on him when the Russian woman soon skips to West Germany to be with her real boyfriend, thus leaving Louka exposed to trouble with the police for engaging in a fake marriage. It backfires on him even more when the Russian woman's aunt dies in hospital, leaving Louka, as the woman's husband, in charge of her five-year-old son Kolya. Suddenly being a father to a small boy transforms the formerly irresponsible bachelor's life.


  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: When Louka uses his bow to poke under Klára the singer's skirt during a performance, she smacks him with her music sheet and calls him a pig. But when they're doing another performance and he doesn't poke under her skirt, she keeps looking backwards expectantly. The movie cuts to a scene of the two of them in bed together.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Velvet Revolution allows Kolya's mother to come back to Czechoslovakia and take him with her but he has to say goodbye to Louka who he started to regard as a parent. It also allows Louka to get his job with the symphonic orchestra back, and the last scene reveals that he and Klára might be together and that she is pregnant.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Nobody helps poor five-year-old Kolya when he's clearly lost in the metro, wandering hopelessly from train to train, getting stuck in the door and being very scared on the escalator.
  • Call-Back: In one of the first scenes Louka is using his bow to poke under Klára's skirt during a gig. Later he makes the exact same gesture with his bow, but it's to stop Kolya from climbing too far over the edge of the balcony.
  • The Casanova: Louka has a little black phonebook of lovers and girlfriends, he calls Zuzi the hot teacher, he beds Klára the hot singer, and he's about to bed the hot blonde cello student when Kolya interrupts them.
  • Citizenship Marriage: Louka reluctantly agrees to enter into one to make some money. Unexpected complications ensue.
  • Comforting Comforter: Louka tries to cover Kolya on their first night together but a scared and angry Kolya throws back the comforter. Later he doesn't, signifying how they've bonded.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Louka's friend is honked at after slowing down to gawk at girls while he's driving.
  • Doorstop Baby: By accident. But Louka finds himself suddenly and unexpectedly responsible for a five-year-old boy when his "wife" lights out for West Germany and her aunt, who's been looking after the boy, is hospitalised and later dies.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: As Louka eventually explains, an offhand smartass remark to a bureaucrat got him fired from the orchestra. Now he cadges work playing at funerals and moonlights as a restorer of gravestones, and is in debt, which is why he agrees to the marriage scheme. Lampshaded when the Bad Cop interrogating him threatens to get him fired from the orchestra and leave him playing funerals, and the Good Cop passes him a note saying "HE DOES FUNERALS ALREADY."
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Played arrow-straight, as the first cop is friendly and agreeable while the second cop comes in breathing fire and threatening Louka with prison for his Citizenship Marriage.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Louka is just getting his cello student's underwear off when Kolya re-enters the room from the bath.
  • Language Barrier: Louka is Czech and doesn't speak any foreign language. He marries a Russian woman in order for her to get Czechoslovak citizenship. She then emigrates to West Germany, and when her elderly aunt goes to hospital (and later dies), Louka has to take care of his wife's five-year-old son Kolya who only speaks Russian. The first weeks are very hard for both and very sad for Kolya. One of the scenes has Louka calling his mistress who teaches Russian to tell Kolya a fairy-tale over the phone. Eventually Kolya starts to pick up a bit of Czech, funnily enough from Franta's interrogations.
  • Long Last Look: At the airport, Louka keeps looking at Kolya and his mom as they leave. Kolya turns around for one last look and waves at him.
  • Mathematician's Answer: Klára wonders about the pigeons that always peck at Louka's window.
    Louka: They're sharpening their beaks.
    Klára: Why are they sharpening their beaks?
    Louka: So that they're sharp.
    Klára: You are an idiot!
  • Maybe Ever After: Klára is pregnant with Louka's child and she watches him play in concert. Maybe they're together.
  • Minor Living Alone: Nadezhda seeks emigration for a better life, but can't bring her son with her. So she leaves him temporarily with her aunt and seeks help from the red cross to reunite with him. The aunt unexpectedly dies and the child is left in the hands of complete strangers.
  • New Parent Nomenclature Problem: Louka wrestles with how to identify himself, sometimes calling himself Kolya's uncle, sometimes grandfather. Finally Kolya starts calling him "dad".
  • Parental Abandonment: Kolya's father is never mentioned in the film. His mother Nadezhda emigrates to Western Germany, hoping to be reunited with her son soon through the Red Cross. Meanwhile Nadezhda's aunt is taking care of him, but she's hospitalised and dies. Kolya is an orphan and the only person who can take care of him is his reluctant step-father who only married Nadezhda for money in a citizenship marriage scheme. (The communist authorities won't let a small child of Russian nationality go out of the country.)
  • The Plot Reaper: Kolya's great-aunt is required to die to get the plot going.
  • Silver Fox: Despite being white-haired and 55 years old, Louka is pretty darn successful with the ladies. He's good-looking and charming, and simply has sex appeal. The fact that elderly Zdeněk Svěrák looks a bit like elderly Sean Connery certainly does not hurt in selling that aspect of Louka's character.
  • Skinnydipping: One scene has Kolya and Louka naked in a river as Louka ruefully notes how pollution has killed off all the otters and trout.
  • Source Music: Because several characters are musicians, there are more instances throughout the film. In a more notable mixed example, when Kolya's plane leaves at the end, a passage from Bedřich Smetana's "Tábor" begins to play, appearing at first to be more traditional soundtrack - but the next scenes reveal it is actually a piece being played by the symphonic orchestra at the concert where Louka is welcomed back.
  • Unfortunate Names: Ms Zubatá the social worker, whose surname not only literally means "toothy", but also is the Czech equivalent of "Grim Reaper". That particular meaning is lampshaded:
    Louka: We have to disappear before Zubatá comes after us.