Under Review: ‘Kawasaki’s Rose’


Pavel Josek is getting a Memory of the Nation Award for his role in supporting Czeck independence through rebelling against the communistic totalitarian regime during the Cold War. His daughter’s husband is making a biodoc of him to commemorate this event, interviewing those who were involved in Czech nation-building and investigating government records related to Josek’s life.

“Kawaski’s Rose” curiously begins with Josek’s daughter in some kind of medical facility where she has been isolated. Doctors had been trying to figure out what was the matter with her. They end up telling her she has had an extremely rare condition – something only in cows – but she is now well and can return home to her family. Strange.

“KR” is riddled with innuendos, analogous scenes and duplicitous situations that lead the viewer to see that life isn’t always as it seems. A perfect vignette for the whole film is Josek’s confrontation with his grand-daughter after she is arrested for shoplifting candy. He explains that she can run but not hide and that we are caught in an inner prison when we are dishonest. He tells her that in the end, dishonesty will create a situation where you stop respecting and liking yourself. So he recommends that she confess what happened to her parents.

Layer upon layer, the characters experience various versions of this theme, not uncommon in Europe where through regime change, people have taken sides against each other. Treachery, betrayal, duplicity, and cruelty are post-conflict catalysts for guilt and self-hate.

How a Japanese origami term, Kawasaki Rose, comes to inspire the title of this film is another rich layer of development. A famous Japanese artist from Japan comes to live with Josek’s wife’s lover (before marriage). The artist’s last name is Kawasaki. His family had been murdered in a Tokyo subway saran attack. Appalled at the senselessness he abandoned his art career.

But something he notices as the film’s story unfolds causes him to paint a beautiful rose, mirroring the layers of events that can, together, create a beauty, a harmony. This is another mirror to the greater issue at hand.

Every part of this film is well-crafted, from the outstanding screenplay to the absolutely superb acting, lending illumination to past and present Czech politics and current social tensions.

Highly recommended, “Kawasaki ‘s Rose” is playing at the 34th Annual Portland International Film Festival on Feb. 11, 13 and 14.

Director: Jan Hrebejk
Writer: Petr Jarchovský
Stars: Lenka Vlasáková, Milan Mikulcík and Martin Huba
Country: Czech Republic
Language: Czech
Release Date: Nov. 24, 2010 (USA)
Also Known As: Czeski blad
Filming Locations: Prague, Czech Republic
Runtime: 100 Minutes
Sound: Dolby Digital
Genre: Drama

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