Contemporary World Cinema

We Are Never Alone

Petr Vaclav

The unhappy lives of a shop clerk, a bouncer, a stripper, and a prison guard intersect in this nihilistic black comedy set in an isolated central European town.

The setting of Petr Vaclav's We Are Never Alone is a forest-enveloped village with dull houses and standard amenities. Here we find a mini-mart clerk (Lenka Vlasakova) dreaming of a sexier life than the one she shares with her basket-case husband (Karel Roden, taking a break from playing Hollywood villains), a man given to manic tirades. We also find a burly strip-club bouncer (Zdenek Godla) and the young stripper (Klaudia Dudova) who is the object of his lust.

This little town's unhappy population also includes a prison guard (Miroslav Hanus) who keeps every door in his house locked and every firearm loaded. He reminisces about the good old days of Soviet occupation, and holds vigil against the "gypsies and subversives" infiltrating his good country. "People are scum," he says. "I'm writing a book about it."

These are desperate people. Who feel alienated by their government, neighbours, and families, and they who want to wrest back some measure of control over their lives. Sometimes they commit repellent acts, but just as often they are simply searching for love and comfort.

The brilliance of Vaclav's approach lies in its combination of nihilistic humour and underlying compassion, a duality that is mirrored in the film's shifts from black and white to colour. While he's never one to hold off from making a bleak joke, Vaclav nonetheless frames his characters as though cradling them. It's true they are never alone — so long as someone like Vaclav is telling their stories and we are their witness.

DIMITRI EIPIDES

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