A procession of late model automobiles proceed down a road surrounded by lush green fields and water in the idyllic Czech countryside. The vehicles are decorated with ribbons with the bride and groom to in the back seat of a white convertible at the front of the row. Radim (Stansislav Majer) and Tereza (Anna Geislerova) are not a young couple rather for each it's a second crack to get it right. Arriving at the church in the middle of town Radim's teenage son Dominik (Matej Zikan) breaks his glasses leading to a trip to an optician where the proprietor Jan Benda (Jiri Cerny) recognizes Radim from his past. Benda heads out of his store after their transaction to the church to have a look at the ceremony.
The family return to a beautiful country estate for the reception followed by Benda. He makes himself at home with the brides sister, parents and the children in attendance. Radim insists that he does not remember him from school while Tereza becomes more uncomfortable with the stranger's presence on her big day. Eventually under Tereza direction Radim forces Benda to leave; when the two are alone as Radim drives Benda away form the estate its's evident that Radim remembers him well.
Veteran Czech director Jan Hrebejk presents a complicated project that centres on the long term effects of cruel teenage acts. How the incidents are often long forgotten by the perpetrators but for the victims the event remain fresh often still a part of their daily lives. Hrebjek employed spectacular locations for the shoot. The country estate with its many out buildings, tree lined road entrance, pond, old wooden bridge and magnificent outdoor wine seller is the perfect setting for the tail. The centre of town with its small church and shops on cobble stone roads is the epitome of traditional Eastern European town square.
Writer Petr Jarchovsky delivers and excellent script. The story takes time to build while the details of the relationship between Radim and Jan Benda is kept purposefully vague. The questions begin to mount when Tereza opens Benda's wedding gift, moves the background when Benda is removed from the scene. The narrative moves to a different level when he returns and asks Tereza for 10 minutes of her time to explain himself. The exchange that follows covers ten minutes in real time as Benda passionately recounts his history with Radim. The camera focusing on Benda for the majority of the conversation, with Tereza mainly interjecting questions off camera until she has the full account then the camera shifts to her to allow the audience to see her digest the information.
Cinematographer Martin Strba work is notable taking full advantage of the films setting. The use of natural light during the daytime scenes is pleasing to the eye. Strba takes full advantage of the lighting possibility in the outdoor stone wine seller using the natural light coming in through the room's window, shadows created by the wonderful stone archway along with the light beaming in from the yard outside. A regular element contributing to the look of the piece is the use of reflecting sunlight off of the water at the pond, under the bridge for the group shot at and from the river during the drive from and to the estate.
Ales Brezina's score is a highpoint of the production. The music is mainly piano based and is appropriately light for the driver into and back from town. The soundtrack is full of traditional Czech wedding songs. Many of them accordion based proclaiming the excellent qualities of Radim and Tereza as bride and groom. The pace of the score quickens and the register lowers as Jan stalks around the outskirts of the estate leaving the viewer unsure if he approaching or leaving and wondering what will be his next course of action. A violin dominates the score as the story builds toward the final confrontation between the two men. Voice and violins dominate the sequence that travels back to the boarding school visualizing the events that occurred between the men twenty years in the past.
Anna Geislerova is engaging as Tereza who's wedding day starts of perfect and slowly begins to unravel leaving her questioning the man that she has just married plus keenly aware that she made a bad choice on her first attempt at marriage. Jiri Cerny is very effective as Radim's old classmate Benda. He moves from curious observer, to wedding crasher then up to pivotal adversary of Radim. David Maj provides some comic relief as Mila Teresa's brother in law. Stansislav Majer is believable as Radim. He does not react to Benda's initial presence, let on that he remembers Benda or that the events in the past had major consequences for all involved.
The Honeymoon (Libanky) is a powerful film presented from several different perspectives. It points out the lifetime scars that occur from bullying and the contrasting views of the bully and victim. One seeing it as a minor bit of adolescence fun that may have gone too far while the victim often remains stuck at that point in time unable to get past the events. Jan Hrebejk has brought us a memorable film that is a must see for 2013.
**** out of 4.
The Honeymoon | Jan Hrebejk | 2013 | Czech Republic | 102 Minutes.
Tags: Wedding Day, Reception, Country Estate, Bullying, Homophobia, Boarding School, Expulsion.