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Sony Picture Classics presents
Up and Down (Horem pádem) (2004)

"You know you can't have a baby. And we can't adopt one because I got a record. I'm such an idiot! Such a f***ing jerk! It's soccer's fault. If I wasn't a fan, I wouldn't have no record."
- Franka (Jirí Machácek)

Review By: Nate Meyers  
Published: July 20, 2005

Stars: Petr Forman, Emília Vásáryová, Jan Tríska, Ingrid Timková, Kristýna Boková, Jirí Machácek, Natasa Burger
Other Stars: Jaroslav Dusek, Pavel Liska, Marek Daniel, Jan Budar, Zdenek Suchý, Pavel Forman, Ester Geislerova, Václav Havel, Martin Huba, Petr Jarchovský, Marie Mravcová
Director: Jan Hrebejk

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content, brief violence
Run Time: 01h:52m:28s
Release Date: July 19, 2005
UPC: 043396109056
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-AB+ C+

DVD Review

The opening of Up and Down (Horem p‡dem) could easily lead one to think that they're about to watch a gritty, stylized version of Three Men and a Baby. Deep within the Czech Republic, two men are smuggling refugees in the back of their semi-truck and drop off the people in the middle of nowhere, only to accidentally leave a newborn baby in the truck. Discovering this mistake, the two men bicker over what to do and I initially expected the gentler one to take care of the child on his own. My expectations did not pan out, however, since the men smuggle the child into a pawnshop and start scrolling the black market to sell it.

The film switches its locale to a carnival. The dark, atmospheric stylings of the earlier scene are gone and the colors now seem more reminiscent of Amélie. A lonely woman, Mila (Natasa Burger), walks up to an unattended baby carriage and starts to walk off with the baby. She is stopped by the mother and taken aside by a security guard, who just so happens to be her ex-con husband, Franka (Jirí Machácek) . Franka and Mila live in a miniscule apartment with a cat and a TV that is always tuned in to a soccer game. At supper, Mila breaks down and tells her husband that she must have a baby or else something terrible will happen. There's no doubting that she's telling the truth, because her desperation in this scene is both mordantly comical and unbearably tragic.

The next logical conclusion is that the script, by Petr Jarchovský, will arrange a meeting between Mila and the two men hawking the recently orphaned baby. But shockingly, director Jan Hrebejk thrusts us into a peaceful family meal. Oto (Jan Tríska) and his family enjoy themselves in a tastefully decorated house, displaying the utmost in class. However, this quickly is revealed to be a façade when Oto suffers a stroke and his daughter, Lenka (Kristýna Boková), learns that he and her mother, Hanka (Ingrid Timková), have kept her in the dark about his first family. Oto is on death's doorstep and requests to meet with his long-estranged son, Martin (Petr Forman), and wife, Vera (Emília Vásáryová).

By this point in the film I was terribly confused and caught completely off guard. Even when the story does return to Mila as she purchases the baby from the two men, I had no idea where any of it was headed. The stories didn't parallel each other in any recognizable way and I didn't have the faintest clue as to how they would tie in to one another—or even if they would. Yet, this is the greatest attribute of Up and Down. Most motion pictures seem to be pre-packaged to meet your every desire and you can practically pinpoint every plot twist and serendipitous coincidence well before it arrives on the screen. Even Paul Haggis' Crash couldn't escape plot conventions and breathe fresh air into the cinema. If nothing else, Jan Hrebejk has made perhaps the most surprising and offbeat film to be released in US theaters so far this year.

None of the scenes play out quite as you would expect them, especially when Martin and Vera join Oto and his new family for brunch. At times intense drama and occasionally comical, the dynamics of the scene are thoroughly engrossing. As the two families join together stories are told and secrets revealed, but the stereotypical yelling and wailing so often depicted in the media is nowhere to be seen. The characters come across as incredibly authentic and the performances by the entire cast are attune to this trait. The same can be said for the story of Franka and Mila, who come across as regular hardworking people who find themselves confined within a sticky situation partly of their own making. Natasa Burger is especially effective as Mila, giving a strong and subtle performance.

How and why these characters interact is still somewhat of a mystery to me. No doubt a Czech citizen would see a very different film than I did. There probably is no simple underlying theme at work here. Rather, Up and Down crafts a puzzling, compelling tale about life—and what could be more up and down than that?

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer comes across quite nicely, with sharp contrast and rich blacks (particularly during the opening sequence). Detail is solid and colors are vivid, making for an aesthetically pleasing viewing experience.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix engages all the channels, but not that frequently. Some directionality and sound separation does occur, but the overall experience came across as rather front heavy. The whole mix is well balanced and effective, but not enthralling.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
10 Other Trailer(s) featuring 3-Iron, Dark Blue World, Divided We Fall, Imaginary Heroes, Kung Fu Hustle, Layer Cake, Look at Me, Off the Map, Walk on Water, Zelary
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:17m:16s

Extra Extras:
  1. Music Video: "Hello America" by Dan Barta—contains clips from the film and recording sessions of the song.
Extras Review: Accompanying the film's international theatrical trailer are the trailers for ten other Sony Pictures Classics releases. 3-Iron, Dark Blue World, Divided We Fall, Imaginary Heroes, Kung Fu Hustle, Layer Cake, Look at Me, Off the Map, Walk on Water, and Zelary are available for your viewing pleasure, with the majority of them being in anamorphic widescreen. The Up and Down trailer is also in anamorphic widescreen.

Additionally, there is a short documentary, Making Up and Down (17m:55s) that takes a look at the whole production, including script readings and footage from the actual production. Spliced with interviews from numerous cast and crew members, this is a fascinating look at the filmmaking process and offers a Czech perspective on the film. There also is a music video, Hello America by Dan Barta (01m:53s). It's a good song, but unfortunately the video features clips from the movie and the audio from those clips diminishes the song's quality.

The documentary is quite good, but the overall lack of extras is still a strike against this DVD release.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Original, confounding, and heartfelt filmmaking makes for a delightful surprise with Up and Down (Horem pádem). Jan Hrebejk and his cast craft a touching story that plays by its own rules and creates some genuine emotion. Sony Pictures Classics provides an elegant image transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix, accompanied by a nice documentary special feature.


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