Thursday, 26 November 2009


In this existentialist drama, Jozef Lauko is a middle-aged chef, living with his wayward ex-wife. Before we have even met him, we learn that he has terminal cancer (the title, 322, is the diagnostic code). In the agonising wait for a diagnosis, Lauko re-evaluates his life, questioning whether he has really been living for the moment, and what he has made of the relationships he has with people. When a phone call from the hospital informs him enigmatically that they have a bed for him, Lauko accepts his mortality, but as he grows more aware of his own imminent fate, he also becomes more conscious of other people’s lives. A suave jazz score runs through the film, as if a passing commuter train reminding the audience that life goes on.

Director Dušan Hanák began his career as a documentarian, but won considerable acclaim with this, his debut. Hanák is clearly a philanthropist, and yet his characters seem so flatly tolerant of life’s volatility. Lauko himself is a weak protagonist, but his observations of other people form the film’s very narrative. In the original short story from which the film was adapted, Lauko was apolitical, but Hanák was adamant that he was a former communist, contextualising the feature and giving the character’s self-deprecation some depth. In this way, 322 is perhaps not as timeless as some of its contemporaries, but still stands out as yet another great flagship of the Czechoslovak New Wave, a movement still palpable in European cinema today.

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