"Something Like Happiness": Unhappiness On Each Floor By Claire Clouzot

in 10th Cottbus Festival of East European Cinema

by Claire Clouzot

Something like Happiness (Stesti) by 38-year-old Bohdan Sláma from the Czech Republic is a family and neighbor story of Monika, Tonik, Dasha growing up in the same housing project, with each a different style of living, diverse objectives and longing for love. Monika starts as a well-balanced lover of George – who goes to America to get a job—and she will soon join him and form a family. On another floor lives Dasha and her sons. Dasha, Monika’s best friend, suffers from depression, neurosis and suicidal tendencies, to the point of not caring for anything but herself. When Dasha is committed to a psychiatric institution, Monika is helped by Tonik, a bearded, pot-smoking inhabitant of the block, who seems, at first, to be irresponsible. Monika and Tonik take care of the children through storms and tribulations, becoming foster parents against their better judgment. Dasha reappears, sometimes like a forlorn lunatic, sometimes like a super bimbo, and still totally selfish.

Due to the talent of the three main actors, Tatiana Vilhelmova, Pavel Liska, Ana Geislerova, Bohdan Sláma succeeds in being both compassionate, cruel and funny. This is a dark story, but it is also a story of the evolution of thirty-year-old people going from irresponsibility to maturity, to loving grace.

The evolution of feelings between Monika and Tonik is typical of the film’s style: they come closer and closer not because Tonik loves Monika, but because of the director’s gentle touch with situations, whether they are horrible, desperate or hopeful. The sweet finger touching a wound, the gentle eye filming death.