Attempt to show mental problems of a girl in Slovak working class is a failure about as dismal as the central character’s prospects in life.
Director of Photography:
Running time: 80 minutes
Miracle (Zázrak) by documentary filmmaker Juraj Lehotský is a fiction film that was clearly influenced by the work of the Dardenne brothers. Unfortunately, a very flimsy storyline, continual jumps in the narrative and a main character who is about as inactive and unlikeable as they come produce a film that is equally uninspiring and far removed from the Dardennes’ studies of the working class.
We first meet Ela, from the Malacky District, the country’s westernmost area, asleep in the car; she is on her way to a correctional facility, where she will spend an indeterminate period of time recuperating with many other girls her age whose scarred arms speak volumes about their emotional state. Ela is expressionless for almost the entire film, but she is also nearly speechless, refusing to share her problems or thoughts because she is certain no one will understand her or care for her.
She had a breakdown when her mother started dating a man Ela describes as “a moron”, but for the most part Ela is annoyed that the relationship between her and her mother is non-existent, and that she has, for all intents and purposes, lost both of her parents.
Having established the disintegration of family life, it is perhaps no surprise that Ela soon discovers she is pregnant, but without a high-school diploma, no money and few prospects, any hope of taking care of herself, never mind a child, is far-fetched at best. Roby, the father of her child, is a drug addict who lives in a small storage room on the side of the highway and already has a child, whom he has never spoken to.
At the facility in the woods where she discovers her pregnancy after a fainting spell, she tells another girl that Roby had caught her stealing something in the shop where he works, and because he didn’t know what to do with her, they ended up together. That’s not exactly the stuff dreams are made of, but Ela seems convinced – despite the evidence to the contrary – Roby would support her if she just escaped from her temporary home.
Ela shows almost no growth throughout the film; we cannot empathise with her because we know nothing of her life prior to the events depicted here (it seems she never had any friends, or at least anyone who would care about where she now finds herself), and because she treats her mother much worse than her mother treats her, we actually end up sympathising with the mother, who is certainly not without faults of her own.
In general, Ela is not just a problem child but seems like a genuinely stupid individual who makes her own life hard, irritates those around her and doesn’t have any social skills. She insults her stepfather even though her boyfriend is exactly the same kind of drone and has a drug habit to boot, and to get money when they need to pay back the drug dealers, she offers to become a prostitute, only to close up like a clam when she has to perform for her new clients.
Miracle‘s director of photography, Noro Hudec, is also at fault here, because all the scenes of Ela having sex are shot from behind her partner, which obscures her face and leaves us with absolute no idea what she is thinking or feeling, thereby making her more of an object than a human participant.
Ela is generally so unpleasant we actually root for her to have an abortion out of fear that the world would be polluted with another one like her in it. Her cantankerousness isn’t helped by the fact scenes don’t evolve but are rather shown as dots that we simply cannot connect in a smooth way. The film is filled with impressions, mostly just showing Ela’s unsmiling face, that do not present us with a complete character.
At one point, Ela gets out of her mother’s car in a huff and storms down the highway. Instead of showing us what happens when her mother catches up to her, there is a cut to a later scene that suggests she didn’t see her mother again, which is difficult to believe.
Miracle is a badly executed product that, even at a short running time of 78 minutes, feels like a mess the characters have got themselves stuck in and cannot escape. The only miracle here is that the film was made at all.
Viewed at the International Film Festival Bratislava 2013