Movie review: Barefoot

The Svěráks are back with a prequel to The Elementary School

Barefoot
(Po strništi bos)
Directed by Jan Svěrák
Written by Zdeněk Svěrák and Jan Svěrák
With Ondřej Vetchý, Tereza Voříšková, Alois Grec, Jan Tříska, Viera Pavlíková, Oldřich Kaiser, Zdeněk Svěrák

The new film Barefoot (Po strništi bos) is a nostalgic return to the childhood of Eda Souček, a little boy familiar to all Czech people from the Jan Svěrák's 1991 Oscar-nominated movie The Elementary School (Obecná škola), written by Jan Svěrák’s father, Zdeněk Svěrák.

In 2013, Zdeněk Svěrák published the book Barefoot (Po strništi bos) and told us more about Eda Souček's childhood. That book has now been made into a film.

The movie blends comedy and drama. Although the movie covers difficult topics and is very touching, it is full of funny moments. Jan Svěrák told the media that viewers will not know whether they should laugh or cry.

The story in Barefoot precedes the post-war tale of The Elementary School, taking place during World War II. Viewers are taken to the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, where 7-year-old Eda and his family are forced to move from Prague to the countryside where their relatives live. The urban family faces a new reality outside of Prague with Eda’s grandparents, aunt and her family.

The small town suddenly becomes home for the little city boy, who has to adapt to a new environment that provides him different adventures. He faces a difficult task of finding friends among boys very different from children in Prague. Also, with time, unexpected family secrets begin to be revealed, and little Eda has to deal with it.

Despite the fact that Barefoot and The Elementary School tell the story of the same family, the actors are different because of the big gap between movies’ releases. You can only see Jan Tříska and Zdeněk Svěrák playing in both movies, however, they are in different roles.

Jan Tříska played the teacher in The Elementary School, while in Barefoot we see him as Eda’s strict grandfather. As for Zdeněk Svěrák, he takes a role of Eda’s father in The Elementary School, but in Barefoot he appears as the teacher in the school where Eda studies.

In the interview to the Czech magazine Novinky.cz, Jan Svěrák mentioned that choosing a boy to play Eda in Barefoot was not difficult. Casting was held among 300 children from different drama classes, who had to tell a joke. The director was looking for a boy who fully understands the joke he is telling, and who can present it in the right way. When little Alois Grec was telling the joke, there was something alive in his face. According to the director, his eyes expressed a lot, and camera liked the boy.

In the movie, the adults and children appear similar, and their worlds converge in the search of courage. “This is a film about heroism and courage: The courage that the little boy is looking for in his father and in himself,” Jan Svěrák said.

The movie creates two parallel atmospheres, one of war, and one of family life. By doing this, Barefoot shows how during the difficult days of the war, people should find heroism even in dealing with their own families.

In some sense, confusion and questions that little Eda starts to have symbolically represent his first steps into a real and complicated life.

Jan Svěrák said that he and his father are completing a tetralogy loosely inspired the experiences of Zdeněk Svěrák, who is the model for Eda Souček.

The story of his life starts with Barefoot, and continues with the previously made films The Elementary School, and Kolja (1996), which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Kolja tells about the adult life of Zdeněk, and the details about his life in old years follow in the 2007 film Empties (Vratné lahve).

If you want to feel nostalgia for the Czech past or find out more about Czech history and culture, Barefoot promises you new experiences.

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