Directed by F.A. Brabec. Starring Lucie Bílá, Karel Roden, Amélie Pokorná, Matěj Převrátil, Bolek Polívka, Eliška Balzerová, Nina Divíšková, Arnošt Goldflam, Jiří Mádl, Anna Stropnická, Nikol Moravcová, Milan Šteindler, Marek Vašut, Tatiana Vilhelmová, Josef Vojtek. Written by Miroslav Adamec.
It’s cloying, overstuffed, and oppressively cute, but you’d have to be a cynic to hate F.A. Brabec’s V peřině (English title: The Magical Duvet), which employs imaginative visuals, catchy tunes, florid choreography, and a star-studded cast headlined by Lucie Bílá and Karel Roden to help all the sugary sweetness go down. At the very least, this is certainly different than the average Czech feature film.
The setting is simply bizarre. In an idyllic small town (actually Písek, South Bohemia), Mom (Lucie Bílá) operates a feather-cleaning business, using a large machine to suck the nightmares out of duvets, ensuring a good night’s sleep. Dad (Karel Roden) spends his time developing feather technology, which involves testing down jackets in the freezer.
Grandfather (Bolek Polívka) was somehow, ahem, sucked into a duvet months ago, landing him in a billowy pink Doctor Parnassus-like Imaginarium that seems only slightly dissimilar to his reality. That leaves Grandmother (Eliška Balzerová, who won a Czech Lion last year for her role in Ženy v pokušení) as the only one who knows the secret of the dream-cleaning business: all the nightmares are kept locked in the basement.
That proves troublesome upon the arrival of a fortune teller, Hilda (Nina Divísková), who opens a shop across the street and decides all the pleasant dreams aren’t so good for business. This results in a couple nightmares escaping into reality: a tall man with a sack who kidnaps children, and a beautiful woman (Nikol Moravcová) who winds up taking care of the kids (Amélie Pokorná and Matěj Převrátil).
Then there’s a student (Jiří Mádl) who rents an attic room at the feather cleaning business, and the young girl (Anna Stropnická) hopelessly in love with him. Milan Steindler and Marek Vašut have small roles as the Grandfather’s pub friends; Tatiana Vilhelmová is the woman with the dog; Arnošt Goldflam plays a police officer/crossing guard permanently stationed outside the family business.
V peřině is also a full-fledged musical, with a number of cheerful, even catchy tunes set to a diverse musical style (Support Lesbiens, Kabát, and the late Karel Svoboda all had a hand in the soundtrack). Some fun choreography, featuring traditionally-costumed villagers dancing in unison, is led by Dara Rollins and Lesbiens’ Kryštof Michal.
Eclectic live-action set design features a wonderful use of color; this contrasts with the sickeningly pick CGI world inside the duvet, which feels bland and ill-defined. Director Brabec previously made the excellent Kytice, a similarly bright, highly-stylized fairy tale that skewed to an older demographic.
You might call V peřině Terry Gilliam on a sugar high. It feels vaguely nostalgic, though for what, I have no idea. The Candyland visuals, syrupy tone, and overflowing innocence make this a fitting Valentine’s Day dessert. As long as you can stomach all the sweetness.
V peřině was shot and originally released in 3D; the DVD version is 2D-only, but a blu-ray set also includes a 3D version.
Image Quality: 4/10
V peřině’s region 2 PAL DVD features a 16:9 anamorphic image that really drops the ball. While static close-ups are fine, in wide shots and whenever there’s movement on screen the image is mostly a hazy mess. That’s a real shame for a film like this, which largely depends on its visuals. No doubt the blu-ray version looks considerably better by comparison; I doubt the shoddy quality of this DVD is an accident.
Sound Quality: 8/10
Thankfully, the 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is fine. Dialogue and music are robust and mixed well, and there’s ample use of the surround speakers.
Subtitles are offered in English and Czech for the hearing impaired. The English subs are mostly fine, save for the songs, which are literally translated and just about incomprehensible.
Bonus Features: 5/10
A light but pleasing assortment of extras includes:
– A goofy but well-produced Making Of featurette (30:30), in Czech without subtitles.
– A fun karaoke version of Skok je přece správný krok (2:45)
– Videoklipy (12:52), a collection of the songs featured in the film
– A trailer (2:53) and teaser (1:53)
Screengrabs (click to view full resolution):