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28th November 2016

Review: I, Olga Hepnarova

I, Olga Hepnarova is an emotionally charged insight into the mind of a mass murderer

The first thing that comes up when you google this film is that it is about a Czechoslovakian mass murderer who mercilessly killed 8 people on the 10th of July 1973, using a truck as a weapon. This description leads you to imagine and expect a high adrenaline film with mystery and violence.

But the film is mostly the opposite to what is being described above. This is a film shot on a black-and-white reel, and the adrenaline taken out of the soul is by the little or no movement of the camera, very slow and stable cuts. The absence of any kind of background score is complemented with most of the film being shot indoors, which adds to the silence of the whole film. This silence can also be treated as a silence of the main character that is Olga Hepnarova and with the risk of sounding clichéd, I must say the silence is also an indicator of the storm that comes in the end, and takes away the lives of 8 people.

When we think of mass murderers we always have the image of them being cruel and emotionless people who can kill for no reason. But this is not the case of Olga. Olga is full of emotions, yes she is socially awkward and doesn’t know how to react to the common situations of life. But she definitely has emotions, and this film helps us to understand the kind of emotions this mass murderer goes through before committing her crime.

It is these emotions that makes her fall in love with a fellow car driver, a woman of almost the same age, but more socially active, and more friendly than Olga. It is these emotions that help her take her bra off in the club and dance, and make out with her girlfriend. The intense love she has for her is because of these emotions. She also felt the pain of not being loved by her father, and being thrashed by the inmates in jail for no apparent reason. This film is also a critique on society in general, the way we treat people who are unable to communicate their feelings, who don’t know the difference between right or wrong, the constant pressure of being good and doing everything right. Olga is fed up of all of this and constantly feels choked and uncomfortable. She, in one of her last letters to the newspaper, summons the society and writes: “I, Olga Hepnarova , the victim of your bestiality, sentence you to a death penalty”.

This film was shown at the panorama section at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival. And I am sure this film still has a long journey to cover.

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