Directed in 1999 by Jan Hřebejk, Cosy Dens is a loose adaptation of Petr Šabach’s novel with the catchy title Hovno Hoří (or “Flaming Feces” in English). Opening at Christmastime, the film focuses on three very different families living in the 1960s Czechoslovakia. The teenage protagonist Michal comes from a family of an army officer and staunch believer in Communism. But caring little for his father’s ideas, he is smitten with his neighbour Jindřiška — daughter of a war hero and dissident. This could be a Romeo and Juliet story, if it were not for Jindřiška’s love for the glamorous Elien, whose parents are living in the States and provide him with latest records, posters, and fancy shoes. While Michal suffers from his first heartbreak, his aunt, a teacher at the local school, is also looking for love — and a father for her young son.
Deeply ironic, Cosy Dens isn’t particularly forgiving of any of its characters. Jan Hřebejk chooses to show both Michal’s and Jindřiška’s fathers not as a representation of opposing political forces, but as their children see them: angry, at times ridiculous aging men who are much less competent at running their families than their wives are. The film masterfully combines dark humour with plain slapstick comedy: the festivities at each of the three flats quickly spiral out of control, leading to awkward flirtations, drunken dancing, and chaotic competitions. An energetic soundtrack by Czech and Slovak rock’n’roll bands only adds to the holiday ruckus.
The film remains a Christmas favourite in today’s Czech Republic, although its second, somewhat more serious half, in fact, takes place in spring and summer. It is 1968 now, and history will soon interrupt the lives of Michal, Jindřiška, and their families: while the spring of that year brought hope for liberalisation, it was quickly crushed by Soviet tanks invading Czechoslovakia that August. A perfect balance of comedy and drama, Cosy Dens is a humorous but heartfelt reminder to appreciate your loved ones — a fitting message for a Christmas watch.
Watch on Amazon Prime.