Pras on World Films: Báječná léta pod psa (The Blissful Years of Lousy Living)

Báječná léta pod psa (The Blissful Years of Lousy Living) is a 1997 movie, adapted from the book of the same title by Michal Viewegh. The film is directed by Petr Nikolaev and based on a screenplay by Jan Novák.

Capturing the dark humor of Czech author Michal Viewegh’s chronicle of life  after the Velvet Revolution, this black comedy chronicles three decades in the  life of a small Czech family. While the original novel centered on the  protagonist Kvido from his conception through his adulthood, first time director  Petr Nikolaev and screenwriter Jan Novak changed the focus to his parents  Milena, an extremely self-effacing lawyer who acts on stage in her spare time,  and Ales, a rather aimless government worker who tends to drift wherever the  wind takes him. The lives of Ales and Milena change dramatically following the  Russian invasion of Prague in 1968. Wanting to get away from the ensuing heat,  Ales quits his job and moves to the country. Without the protection of Party  membership, he and his brood are forced to live on the summer porch of a locked  home until young Kvido reads a pro-communist speech at school. Ales’s new job  necessitates frequent travel abroad and it is during just such a journey that he  indulges in a brief affair. Back at home, Kvido rekindles a relationship with an  old flame. One night Ales gets caught meeting with a dissident writer and ends  up demoted to gatekeeper. He goes into a deep funk until Kvido heeds his  mother’s suggestion and presents Ales with a grandchild, or at least what  appears to be his grandchild. Though it is at first a small deception, it is one  that has great effect upon the little family later.

It’s the beginning of the 1950s in Czechoslovakia where the heavy impact of the Soviet Union influences all the happenings in the country. A young mother, played by Libuše Šafránková and a father, played by Ondřej Vetchý, are expecting their first baby. They have already agreed on a name – Quido. The baby is due to be born on on August 5, but because nothing happens as planned, Quido is born earlier, during the performance Waiting for Godot written by Samuel Beckett. This might have influenced his life because since that moment he seems to be a genius boy. Of course his intelligence makes him trouble during his teenage years at school and also during his attempts to get a girlfriend. Eventually he manages to pick the right one.

For Quido everything suddenly looks wonderful, when another disaster comes. His father starts to suffer from persecution mania after he has been degraded from his job and asked to come to a police interrogation. He changes completely and thinks that the situation becomes unbearable. That’s why he is making himself a coffin. Quido’s mother feels desperate and comes with an idea which could save her husband. She wants Quido to have his own baby so that her husband could see the world from a better perspective again.

Eventually the whole situation is saved not only by Quido’s child, but mainly by The Velvet Revolution in 1989. As a result Quido’s father starts to feel much better. The whole atmosphere is then interrupted by the fact that it becomes more and more obvious that the situation hasn’t changed that much.

CAST

The Blissful Years of Lousy Living / Báječná Léta pod Psa
Directed by Petr Nikolaev
Written by Jan Novák
Starring Libuše Šafránková
Ondřej Vetchý
Music by Milan Dvořák
Ivan Hlas
Distributed by Space Films
Release date(s) April 3, 1997
Running time 109 minutes
Country Czech Republic
Language Czech

Libuše Šafránková as Quido’s mother

Ondřej Vetchý as Quido’s father

Jan Zahálka as Quido – young boy

Jakub Wehrenberg as Quido – young man

Klára Botková as Jaruška – young girl

Jitka Ježková as Jaruška – young woman

Vladimír Javorský as Šperk

Vilma Cibulková as Šperková

Miriam Kantorková as grandmother Věra

Vladimír Dlouhý as Zvára

Květa Fialová as grandmother Líba

Stanislav Zindulka as grandfather Josef

Otakar Brousek st. as dědeček Jiří

Viktor Preiss as playwright

Jiří Schmitzer as Dr. Liehr

Alice Bendová as Zita

Miloň Čepelka as gateman

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