Svatá čtveřice

A Good Old Fashioned Czech Orgy

Svatá čtveřice

Rating Svatá čtveřiceSvatá čtveřiceSvatá čtveřiceSvatá čtveřice

Directed by Jan Hřebejk. Starring Jiří Langmajer, Marika Procházková, Hynek Čermák, Viktorie Čermáková, Luděk Munzar, Jana Gýrová, Valerie Šámalová, Jenovéfa Boková, Gregor Bauer, Barbora Poláková. Written by Michal Viewegh.

Note: Svatá čtveřice is screening in Czech, but an English-subtitled copy has been making the rounds at some of Prague’s art houses; check listings at Atlas, Mat, and Lucerna for upcoming screenings. 

Jan Hřebejk’s Svatá čtveřice (The Holy Quartinity) takes a look at two families living next door to each other. The two teenage sons from one family are sleeping with the two teenage daughters from the other. The parents, why not, decide to try a foursome. Now, Takashi Miike might have gone somewhere with this premise.

Instead, the premise is the whole movie. Everybody’s sleeping with everybody else, and it’s all OK. Gee, thanks for the insight. I kept waiting for the kids to hook up with the parents, or some other level of sexual deviancy to be introduced and a line crossed; but no – the only thing Svatá čtveřice wants to say is that it’s OK to have a foursome. Which, frankly, isn’t enough; you’ll either buy into or not, and the film shows you nothing new. 

Svatá čtveřice stars Jiří Langmajer and Hynek Čermák as a pair of Czech electrical technicians who are sent to a remote coastal village on an unnamed Caribbean island to restore power after a devastating hurricane has left the community in ruins. But forget that unimportant angle, which is given the bare minimum of screen time, mostly second unit work and an unearned scene of celebration when the power comes back on. 

Instead, we focus on the thinly-sketched characters, whose wives (Marika Procházková, Viktorie Čermáková) tag along because, hey, free vacation. And hey, they all like each other, so why not – foursome! The ease with which this idea is leapt at is bizarre, the only hangup being the Procházková character’s religious beliefs (limited to a line of dialogue: “but she goes to church every Sunday”), which are easily…subdued.

If you’re not weirded out enough from the storyline, let’s make this thing even creepier: onscreen couple Hynek Čermák and Viktorie Čermáková are, in real life, brother and sister. What were they trying to accomplish with this casting? Yuck!

Back home, the two couple’s four children are also sleeping with each other, in the same bunk bed. Two at a time, mind you, so they can better judge their parents later. And there’s your movie.  But there’s something missing here. Conflict? Drama? Even at a mere 78 minutes, Svatá čtveřice really drags under the weight of absolutely nothing interesting happening. 

Writer Michal Viewegh (Román pro ženy, Román pro muže) is not exactly known for his highbrow fare, but the level of writing on display here is stunning. There is one, yes one, attempt at conflict here: the parents of the Čermák character want to erect a fence between the two families’ houses, which, of course, none of the family members want but each is too weak to speak up against. Yes, that’s right: a literal fence between the two families is the key plot device in the movie. The mind boggles. 

I’m not even going to get to the scene in which the couples return from their vacation with a photo slideshow for grandma and grandpa and the kids. You know where this is going: nude photos of the four fondling and groping, and they can’t stop the DVD (I mean, c’mon, someone had to make that slideshow in the first place…) But no, by this point, the film had completely lost me. 

Upbeat, easy listening soundtrack by Eggnoise (Ondřej Kopička & Ondřej Galuška) perfectly matches the film’s flatline tone. 

Director Hřebejk has made some of the best Czech films of the past fifteen years, which include Pelíšky and Divided We Fall; Svatá čtveřice is by far the worst I’ve seen from him. For some viewers, there may be enough weirdness (including all the bizarre religious imagery related to the title) to overcome the complete lack of story here. For others, it just ain’t weird enough.

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