In 2007, Czech director Tomáš Vorel sr. made a film called The Can
, an adaption of the book Graffiti Rules
. As the name of the source material suggests, the main motif was graffiti and hip hop subculture, something that was both trendy and on the edge of the law. The Can
did not have enough funny scenes to be called an out and out comedy, whilst also lacking enough serious bits to be labelled a drama. What´s most important is the filmmaker tried to serve a cold slice of real life. However, the multitude of teenage film stereotypes kind of deflated his intentions.
After 7 years, Vorel sr. is back with The Uni. And the story is basically the same. Michal Kolman (Jiří Mádl), a spoiled child of wealthy parents, makes his way through university by bribing and buying answers or whole academic papers by day only to cruise the streets and screw gold-digging chicks by night -- which also applies as his mantra. On the other hand, his friend Petr Kocourek (Tomáš Vorel jr.), with artistic ambitions, comes from a broken marriage, his father a deceased alcoholic and his mother competing for the same fate. The first attempt to study graphic design did not work out for him, so he is trying a second time. Despite their different personalities, ambitions and social backgrounds, they come together in their love of graffiti.
The main story arc is about Petr Kocourek trying to get into uni. He does not pass the entrance exam. From there on, the film is just a patchwork of seemingly random snapshots of free life and graffiti. Kocourek battles the setback by self-pity and more graffiti, and Kolman chases skirts and dodges expulsion. A femme fatale enters the scene to stir up a bit of the plot void. The chick makes it to the uni, Kocourek is sad, she dates him, shags his best friend and nobody notices. The snort coke while her quasi-boyfriend protests, until, finally a bitter and humiliating finale comes... of course...
The narrative consists of myriads of chopped fragments interrupted by harsh and irritating editing even though the scene on-screen has not yet ended in the causal sense. The complete absence of causality is a bit odd and a lot of scenes happen for the sake of their happening and not the story´s. The screenplay would have definitely benefited from a few more revisions.
An apology could be easily made of the film in exalting it as a generational manifesto of recent youth (and judging by feedback from younger spectators it is perceived as such to a certain extent). But that would have worked for The Can
thanks to the whole setting of secondary grammar school (Class Enemy
also shows how interesting the place is) and there might have been some so-called generational diagnosis, but the same cannot apply for The Uni
. The director Tomáš Vorel sr. is certainly not a one-trick-pony (his musical on the age of totalism, The Smoke
, from 1990, delivers him from this pejorative label for now).
In the end, the dominant theme in The Uni is the current economic environment in which a new generation is growing up, the one shattering the illusions or allowing them to be bought for some dough, the foster care of a rising legion of young adults caressed by the sometimes unforgiving and sometimes mendaciously caring hand of capitalism. This interpretation could be found in one particular sequence of scenes. Kolman invites a fellow student to a quickie in his expensive car which basically serves as a token of his social superiority. After the incriminating coitus and rough cut we see the same fellow economics´ student giggling her female equipment in the faces of elderly visitors in a neon-lit titty bar while Kolman proudly cheers her on. Case closed.
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