History is written by the winners, but even after the ink dries, everyone---including the losers---still has to live with it. That's the gist of Jan Hrebejk's drama about an elderly Czech psychiatrist (Huba) slated to receive the country's prestigious "Memory of Nation" award. A prominent dissident during the Velvet Revolution, this everyman is also the subject of a documentary detailing his heroism. Then a file is unearthed by the production team, suggesting the famous public protester did double duty as a stooge for the government's secret police, and may have been instrumental in sending an artist-cum-romantic-rival into exile. Feel free to start quoting William Faulkner's maxim about the past never being dead any time now.
The narrative's notion that everyone from celebrated heroes to villainous interrogators contains multitudes isn't groundbreaking, nor is the director's attempt to integrate elements such as adultery, a bitter son-in-law (Mikulck) and an ill daughter to further humanize the story. Such overall familiarity makes the over-the-top soap-operatic elements, such as a histrionic screamathon between mom and daughter, that much more grating---and Hrebejk's upending of cathartic clichs that much more gratifying. Anyone can allow their hero a public apology in front of a live mike; it takes a perverse understanding of how absolution is never simple to end your film with that same noble figure being subjected to a litany of profanity.
Watch the trailer