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Science Fiction - The End Of August At The Hotel Ozone

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Beta Ponicanova, Magda Seidlerova, Vanda Kalnova
Directed by Jan Schmidt
Czekoslovakia 1966
Facets Video 2006
Black and White
Czech with English Subtitles
87 minutes

The End Of August At The Hotel Ozone won first prize at the Trieste International Festival of Science Fiction Films and was an official selection at the Cannes International Film Festival and it is easy to see why. This post-nuclear war movie from behind what used to be the Iron Curtain is stark well made, subtle, and very dramatic. This is not your usual science fiction nuclear holocaust survivors tale with lots of special effects and so on. Instead, director Jan Schmidt tells a simple, human story whose simplicity belies its deeper repercussions.

The End Of August At The Hotel Ozone begins with a series of scenes and countdowns in various languages each ending with a bright white screen. Schmidt then has a tree fall, answering the age-old question, and an old lady’s hand counting the rings and telling us what happened over the last few years. The movie is the story of an old lady who is the leader of a band of Amazon like women, the last survivors of the nuclear blast. She is more like a mother than a leader so discipline is sometimes a problem. They basically roam the countryside looking for other survivors and the old lady’s hope get up a couple of times.

Although the girls are educated and spend one morning at an abandoned house reading letters a jealous girl wrote to her friend about the latter’s ability to attract men –this is quite ironic since there are no men (or dogs) anymore—the girls are also quite wild in some ways and can prove to be violent at times. Schmidt foreshadows the ending of The End Of August At The Hotel Ozone brilliantly as you do not see the foreshadowing until the end (like in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”).

Some people may not be big fans of foreign movies or subtitles yet The End Of August At The Hotel Ozone does not need the very easy to read English subtitles to be understood. In many ways this is a simple story told quite dramatically and brilliantly with a few touches of humour here and there.

Richard Lanoie

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