Director: Igor Voloshin
The Cellar/Pivnica/Sklep, Slovakia/Czech Republic/Russia, 2018
produced by Furia Film (SK), 8Heads Productions (CR), Gate LLC (RF), supported by Slovak Audiovisual Fund, Czech State Cinematography Fund, Ministry of Culture of Russian Federation, EURIMAGES, in coproduction with RTVS
Even worse than losing your child is the inability to bury it...
Family and marriage. How many times have filmmakers addressed the theme!? Yet there is never enough said. And it shall never lose its significance, today perhaps more than ever...
The marriage of the meek Milan and tough Táňa Labát is in ruins. They are about to give it one more try – we see them at the beginning of the story as having just moved to the countryside. They are escaping the city and estrangement. Yet can they escape themselves? Their only daughter, the sixteen-years old Lenka is moving with them. She is intelligent and perceptive. She knows that things are not right between her parents. At the same time, however, she experiences her own adolescent adventures. It is summer break and a party is thrown in the next village. The night shall change the lives of everyone concerned.
Lenka is leaving with her friends for the party. Milan makes living by playing in an amateur music band and is performing tonight at a hotel party where Zdena arrives – his former lover, a passionate woman, the opposite to the cold, rebuffing Táňa. He can't resist her and shall have to face the consequences, when his wife turns up at the hotel and catches him cheating on her - again.
“When Lenka comes home,” Táňa concludes the incident, “you will pack your things and get out.” As it turns out, the sentence is a curse: Lenka will not come home. Her ringing mobile phone dropped in the fields is the first twist in our story. The family drama acquires a gloomier character. Through the prima facie chamber story universal themes and meanings start to seep; role swap in the marriage and ultimately justice and revenge – and especially its justification.
Search for the missing Lenka is led by Captain Varga, young, ambitious, yet inexperienced investigator. The relationship between him and the Labáts is marked from the outset by distrust that gets further exacerbated when her discovers that the Labáts have kept him in dark about their family problems. The investigation has to again take into account a possibility that Lenka had run away from home.
Varga hears number of juvenile witnesses. Conversations with adolescents make him nervous and lead to a conviction that they are more rotten than his generation: not only do they take drugs or engage in sexual relations via the internet, but they lie for their own gain, whilst being coldly ignorant about the fate of their friends. A peek into the world of contemporary teenagers for whom mobile phones and social networks are the second nature, is an important theme of The Cellar.
The investigation is a side lien to the main drama of the married couple. Milan engages in his own search ro his daughter and he too, meets with her friends. The story touches and explores an additional delicate issues: how much do parents know their children? The village is covered with photos of Lenka which ask for help. Yet no one phones. Milan and Táňa go through dragging hell of anxiety and fear. It is only now that their relationship is really tested. Hope that Lenka gets in touch and returns, dues with each passing days. That too contains a paradox that it is Táňa who is worse at handling the situation. She doesn’t go to work and takes strong tables, Milan stays home. He considers it his duty to be support to his wife. Still, Táňa attempts to commit suicide. When Milan brings her home from hospital after a few days, he defines the situation with ice-‐cold certainty: they have to find Lenka's body and burry it. The life of the Labáts is torn to pieces. The worst thing happened to them that a parent can experience. The summer is slowly coming to its end …
Milan has to find out what happened on the fateful night – it is the only thing that makes sense to him at the moment. Lenka's friend Lukáš went with her in the car to the party and Milan is convinced that he is not telling the truth about the critical night. Milan reaches an extreme decision: he kidnaps Lukáš and hides him in a cellar of a rented cabin in the woods. Yet Milan, the keyboard player in a silly entertainment band, is far from the Hollywood action heroes. To kidnap and keep a human isn’t easy. Milan is a desperate father, not a criminal, though he just committed a serious crime of kidnapping.
The dark cellar is a metaphor to Milan's inner self, as well as of other characters in the story. He descends there to hear the boy; to learn what happened to his daughter. Yet in two days he can no longer be sure about what he has done. What if Lukáš really doesn’t know anything? One thing is for sure: he just deprived another mother of her only child. Milan covers up for his brief, yet frequent stays at the cabin by telling his wife that he has rehearsals with the band. Táňa is gradually recovering, whilst noticing a change in her husband's conduct. She is convinced that he is again spending time with his lover.
Milan is returning to the cabin with new evidence against Lukáš. He has no idea that he is being followed by Táňa who is convinced about his infidelity; she is driven to clarify the issue of the marriage. The circle closes …
The arrival to the cabin proves a shock to Táňa: instead of a lover there is an imprisoned boy. She hears Lukáš' confessions who, under the weight of the new evidence and the many days in the cellar, breaks down. Together with his friend they took Lenka in the car and raped her outside the village. To silence her, they murdered her with a stone.
The Labáts now know where to find Lenka, her body. Yet that is not the end of the story. Here is the tied Lukáš, the fellow offender. Above the cabin hovers, like a cloud, the questions of crime and punishment: it is the issue of relationship between a man and woman, the very nature of marriage. Of the role swap. This time it is Táňa to take justice in her hands and poleaxes Milan who stands in her way. She is holding a knife. Yet ultimately even she cannot do what every parent whose child was murdered talks about. Even she can't do what Lukáš has done to Lenka.
The end is symbolic. The Labáts are leaving the cabin with Lukáš on the back seat of the car. They are driving forward to a police car and their future. No matter what it has in store for them, they are bound to live it together – they are sentenced to life together with the tragic loss …