27 May 2018



'A bittersweet rumination on the quiet desperation of everyday lives.'
Trevor Johnston, Film Writer.

'Daddy, there's a chicken under the car.'
Kaja Junior.

'I know everything that goes on in this house. I know when Grandad goes to the toilet. I know when Gran has her back pain.'

This is a most extraordinary film. Nothing much seems to happen in it- in fact, the studio head who sanctioned its creation referred to it as 'the most boring film ever made'- and yet, a lot of information is being conveyed to us nonetheless. Not in a preachy, didactical kind of way, mind you, but rather in a gently humorous, easy-going take-it-if-you-wish-or-leave-it-if-you-prefer kind of way.

The action is set in a small rural Czech village in the early 'Sixties. The lead character, Bambas, is played by a man who sadly passed away shortly after filming, a man who wasn't a professional actor at all but an actual music school principal, the exact character he portrays in the film. He turns in a performance that many a professional actor might have envied.

He plays a family man, a father, a husband, a son-in-law and homeowner as well as a devoted musician. His music and the occasional fishing trip are the things which bring him the most pleasure in life. Yes, we're sure he loves his wife and three small children and his father-and-mother-in-law and all the chickens but, as we all know, family life is hard.

It can leach the joy and the fire out of you bit by bit until one day you're surprised to find that you're old and you've barely achieved any of your life goals. We get the impression that this is what's happened to Bambas, without his noticing it, almost.

He's a good husband, father and provider but he's pushing middle-age and he's dissatisfied with where he's at in his life. Even the occasional funeral, at which Bambas gets paid a couple of bob to play a few suitably miserable tunes, does little to liven things up a bit for him.

When the film opens, the little village orchestra with which he performs is preparing for a concert. The soloist at the concert is to be an old friend of Bambas's called Petr, a man with whom he went to music college in his youth. Petr and his beautiful, quirky and fun-loving girlfriend Stepa will stay at Bambas's house while they're in town.

Petr is super-impressed by the fact that his old mucker Bambas has his own big house in the country, a car of his own and a steady, settled job at the school. This is ironic, as Bambas envies Petr for the freedom he still has to wander around the place (have instrument, will travel) without any wives, kids, in-laws or mortgages hanging round his neck like a millstone. What's that they say about the grass always being greener 'over there...?' This is a classic case.

At Bambas's house, they eat dinner and the giddy Stepa goes into paroxysms of mirth over the fate of a chicken leg. The local pharmacist, a lovely elderly chap, comes over to practise for the concert with the rest of the string quartet: Bambas, Petr and Bambas's father-in-law, a real
character of an auld fella who tries to make out that he's still got the same stomach for boozing and womanizing that he had in his youth. Well, he's still got the same physical stomach anyway, lol.

They're actually all playing their own music, as Ivan Passer the director deliberately chose for his film real musicians who could act a bit if prodded, rather than professional actors who would have to pretend to be playing their instruments. It certainly pays off, anyway.

I thought that their rendition of that fabulous Mozart piece, EINE KLEINE NACHTMUSIK, was rather marvellous. The essay that comes with the film, however, decrees otherwise, and we must always bow to the superior views of the critics, lol.

Mind you, my ear for music mightn't be all it could be. Certainly my confidence was badly knocked after being ejected from Sr. Assumpta's after-school music classes in secondary school (me AND my guitar) and told none too politely not to come back. Your loss, my dear Sr. Assumpta. Your loss...

We see Bambas and Petr sitting up late boozing after the family has all gone to bed, reminiscing about their music college days at the conservatoire and chewing the fat together over their various grievances. Bambas is bored and feeling stifled with his life while Petr is starting to feel like it's high time he settled down instead of being an itinerant musician with no roots. Maybe they should swap lives for a bit, lol.

I love how the film writer Phillip Bergson describes the film in the little essay booklet that comes free with it. He says: 

'This casual-seeming chronicle of a weekend in the countryside of latter-day Bohemia, where two old friends meet up to make music again and reflect how differently their lives have turned out, is an apparently artless collection of comical vignettes of everyday existence, that cleverly construct a quietly devastating portrait of illusions crumbling and ambitions unfulfilled.'

A few of my own observations now. Firstly, the sexy and ultra-modern Stepa is lucky not to be raped and sodomized by the semi-toothless village idiot, coming onto him like that with her half-eaten peach or whatever it is. Good job they're separated by a wire fence. Secondly, egg-nog turns my stomach. I had it once and it made me feel queasy. I don't know why people in films hold it in such high regard.

Film writer Trevor Johnston, whose full-length essay is in the booklet accompanying the film, puts it really well when he writes: 

'Indeed, for all its portraiture of thwarted ambitions and uncertain aspirations, this is not a film which tells you that happiness doesn't exist. The possibility of happiness is certainly there, as long as you can raid the larder at midnight (as Bambas and Petr do) while listening to Dvorak, or there are old songs to be sung, Mozart to be played as badly as you can manage, another bottle of home-made hooch in the bottom of the cupboard, roast chicken to be shared, or cute kittens in black and white. It's just that it's a bit elusive. You might just have to wait a wee bit before glugging down that tantalising and evidently symbolic eggnog.'

Eugh, eggnog again, barf. I know what he means about the happiness thing though. Happiness is found in the occasional perfect moments you get in life, like when you're laughing at something particularly funny or you're watching a brilliant old movie with a nice glass of wine. Savour those moments. Grab 'em and savour 'em. That's what real happiness is made from, in my not-so-humble opinion. It took me a long time to figure it out but now I know.

INTIMATE LIGHTING is available to buy now on Blu-Ray from SECOND RUN FILMS. It comes with a booklet of new writing on the film and an interview with the director. He tells us of the Czech veterinarian who's seen the film over sixty times and the man who watches it every time he's contemplating suicide...!

The whole package also includes director Ivan Passer's award-winning short film A BORING AFTERNOON, in which a load of men sit around in a bar arguing about football. Not much has changed since then, so...


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


You can contact Sandra at:



No comments:

Post a Comment