Girls Just Don't Wanna Have Fun

in 13rd Cottbus Festival of East European Cinema

by Karim Zendagui

Life isn’t always bright when you’re a seventeen year old girl living in a grey housing-area in the suburbs of Prague. Ema tries quite hard to add fun to her existence. She changes her feelings as often as her fashion styles and haircut experiments. She twists the emotions like her skinny long legs and mixes honesty with arbitrariness. Sharing the flat with her emotionally insecure mother hopelessly longing for love, Ema shows serious symptoms of a child growing up without the father. Ema is the leader of a small group of teenagers and adults perform a strange round dance, meeting and loosing each other in varying combinations but never leaving the limits of their small world. Although the nocturnal car rides on the highway create the illusion of motion and energy, they only seem to lead back to the starting-point. The terrace in the roof of her apartment building is transformed by Emas imagination in a colored landscape, picturing her dreams and fears. She uses the wasteland on the outskirts of the city as a lonely hide-out. Yet both places don’t show a way out of her misery.

Devcatko (Girlie) is the first feature film of the 1972 born author and director Benjamin Tucek. He knows exactly how to work with the acquired charm of youth of his actors, especially Dorota Nvotová as Ema. Jana Hubinská as Ema’s desperate and disoriented mother is more than a support. Hubinská has another remarkable appearance as supporting actor in the second Czech film in competition Nevné hry (Faithless games) by the 1961 born Michaela Pavlátová, well known for her animated short films. Recently there has been a new wave of movies in the West exploring the recurring teenage angst. An interesting aspect appears between Girlie and Thirteen by Catherine Hardwicke, an emblematic new film of the same genre. The difference between the thrills of cheap glamour in sunny LA and the grey suburban tristesse in Prague is obvious. In Thirteen the increasing generation gap has become an abyss while Girlie is still centered on the loss of values of the older generation and it surely is no coincidence that it’s the mother and not the daughter who is in danger in the Czech movie. Despite the accidental death of the mother Girlie is less dramatic and at a certain level this could be read as a quality of the film. Like its young heroine the film does not seem to be able to transgress the fixed morals and aesthetic boundaries of the lower middle class environment.