Friday, 25 February 2011


Having made the big move to Prague, a young woman named Tonka becomes a prostitute in order to earn her keep, and quickly becomes integrated into the ways of brothel life. She returns to her countryside home with expensive gifts for her mother, but is evasive about how she acquired the money for them. She also rejoins her lover Jan who proposes marriage, an offer which has clearly been hanging over their relationship for a while. Tonka struggles to deal with her duplicitous lifestyle, and when she agrees to spend the night with a murderer who is condemned to be hanged, she is rejected even by her fellow prostitutes.

From the first moment we see Tonka, she is already a tainted woman, her reputation scuppered by her brothel connections, and as such it is difficult to know which part of her story we are to learn from. If anything, the film appears to tell us, as in Mikio Naruse’s later Morning’s Tree-Lined Street, that the bright lights of the city are a misleading augury. The scenes with Tonka in the countryside are beautiful, pleasant, summery – when the story returns to the city however, we are greeted by nocturnal shadows and noxious smoke. Slovenian actress Ita Rina, best known for her role in Erotikon, does a great job of portraying the protagonist trapped in the evil shadows of Prague. Director Karl Anton employs tropes of German Expressionism and French Impressionism in his visual arsenal, creating a melodrama with surprising emotional reach.

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