The year 2014 is certainly the year of sequels for Czech cinema.
A beloved cult film, The Inheritance or Fuckoffguysgoodday
, got a sequel (and several others are getting ready for a release), an event that only few would say will come true. When in 1992, Věra Chytilová, a prominent figure of the so-called Czech New Wave, made a film about a village drunkard-cum-millionaire, a lot of people thought she went out of her mind and that the bar of bad taste could not be dropped any lower. The contrary is the case, and over time, the film entered into the treasure chest of Czech films, gathered a great deal of fans and proved to be ahead of its era. Chytilová got the last laugh.
In 2014, when she was 85 years old and on a filmmaking retreat since 2006, a director of a new generation was entrusted to continue in her legacy. Bolek Polívka, the memorable protagonist of the film and the author of the screenplay, took a second shot on both, becoming the infamous Bohumil Stejskal for one last time and the person responsible for penning the new adventure.
Many quotes from the first film became more and more popular over the years and the same goes for Polívka´s histrionic drunken clowning. The Inheritance vividly illustrated how political and economical events can not only spoil peoples´ characters, but also shape them on the oddball example of a simple village worker obtaining wads of cash (and some estates) without earning them in the traditional fashion. It was guaranteed amusement, as well as a sad prophecy underneath.
Robert Sedláček was commissioned to direct the film. His low-key satire Long Live the Family must have persuaded the producers that this man would know how to handle a sequel to a national treasure adequately. The Inheritance 2 follows the same conceptual formula, albeit 20 years later.
The opening scene (after a long flyover, à la The Shining) is very typical: a burial. Bohumil´s wife (played by the late wife of Czech president Václav Havel) has died. The screenwriter, Polívka or his screen alter-ego Bohumil, did not wait long to throw in the first reference in Chytilová´s direction. The sequel is brimming with many references, or winking, to fans, somewhat assuring viewers about the legitimacy of the sequel by continuous intertextual toying. While some puns bear the quality of nostalgic reminiscent, others feel abundant and forced, wedged into the film for the sake of its cult status. (For example, a meeting with gold-voiced Karel Gott).
The source of all fun and bantering stems from the heavily intoxicated protagonist reciting pearls of wisdom in the pose of local souse. The first information that steers the audience into a grey area is that Bohumil has been sober since his grandson´s birth, this fact incongruous with the iconic figure of Bohumil Stejskal. The status is short-lived because, soon after the funeral, he starts to fall into his old habits about his longtime friend, a bottle.
The theme of parasiting on one´s wealth underlines the entire narrative. Although the first film dramatized the rise (and fall) of fellow countryman among his caste, Sedláček´s contribution adapts to current affairs. Not only wealthy people are trying to screw their own kind, but the filmmaker also fused the tinselled world of the media. The setting and plot development conveys similar zeitgeist values as its predecessor.
The screenplay suffers the same disease as many recent Czech productions, mostly in the third act, when some scenes make sense, and pivotal figures appear without any foreshadowing or story logic whatsoever. The plot looks like a patchwork of distinct scenes glued together by leading leitmotif.
It's more observational humor, rather than hilarious laugh out loud comedy, fairly inspired also by the life of the leading man. (Some viewers may not readily see the difference between the real life Bolek Polívka and his screen double Bohumil Stejskal). The jokes stroke the same chord as in 1992, mostly following the lead from the previous film. In some cases, Polívka clearly wrote the script on fumes, so he happened to get in the film gratuitous and very cheap laughs, gently undermining the good work he has achieved in putting together a sly satire.
After 20 years, history repeated itself; critics hated the film, as well as the part of the audience coming to theatres with false expectations. The times have changed since the first film, so it would be silly to expect the very same package (and a bit anachronistic as well).
However, history will repeat itself once again, when the film receives the full recognition it deserves in due time. In the case of this type of satire, distance only proves its worthiness, as we look back at it. Róbert Sedláček maxed out of what was left by the first film.
There is certainly a limit in reviving this sort of cult figure, particularly when Chytilová already milked the best stuff. The Inheritance 2 has a legitimate raison d´etre and it is not an emptied narrative, despite some limp jokes, as some have said, and the weak writing might turn out to be prophetic when the time is ripe.