Olmo Omerzu latest film Bird Atlas, is filled with bitter sweetness that showcases that greed and self-reliance are not the be-all and end-all of life. With a cast on top form, Bird Atlas Hits all the right notes.
Ivo Rona (Donutil) may have serious health issues, but he believes that his ambitious son, Martin (Martin Pechlát), could never fill his shoes. His hospitalisation makes the question of succession acute, but that’s only the start of his problems.
Ivo is on borrowed time; he is a man who enjoys his steaks and alcohol all while owning a business that his father created. He is a man stuck in a routine, whether with his lifestyle or how he runs his business. Ivo simply doesn’t want change that hasn’t come from his brain and is quick to demand and blame if things are not going the way he wants or expects. So when his and his companies world comes falling down around him, he has a choice to make regarding the life of both. Does he change and accept assistance and keep living on, or does he keep going in this doomed direction curtailing both far earlier than needed?
As Ivo and his family figure out the culprit to the millions being laundered out of the company, Omerzu widens the heartbreak in Bird Atlas with the inclusion of Marie. A woman scorned by her boss despite a romance years ago and someone who just wants to feel loved once more. To have that connection and is willing to do whatever she can to get it. It is a wonderful parallel with Ivo, who seems to get what he wants and feels little towards the emotional aspect. His coldness at all times to everyone he meets allows for Marie and, in truth, the rest of the cast to be the hearts of the film, no matter how misguided they seem.
Bird Atlas ventures down a path that you sense coming from early on with the introduction of characters, but Omerzu and co-writer Petr Pýcha have interwoven so much heartbreak into their film that by the credits, you are slowly crushed from it all. We do not like Ivo, but we do want him to see sense, even if it is for the sake of his family and employees more than for him. With his family, we want to make sure that they do not end up like their father/father in law and bring something positive forward. Mingling the comedy into the drama works very well as it soon becomes a rather dark piece.
As Ivo is recovering, we get the first of many instances of the birds talking to one another. Olmo Omerzu has gone rather bold with his philosophical approach on this one, and for the most part, it does work. Of course, some of the audience will immediately dislike this inclusion due to how off-centre it is compared to the rest of the film. However, Omerzu’s point is clear, that taking your own advice at all times does not and cannot work.
While the bird inclusions will split some, what doesn’t work in any way and only has a passing connection from Ivo is the inserts of the soldiers. They are seemingly soldiers in Afghanistan, though Ivo at one point criticises his secretary Marie for having a relationship with an American soldier, seeing it as a slight against him. These random inserts are a struggle and a weird inclusion that feel misplaced.
Regardless, there is more than enough here in Bird Atlas to enjoy its quirky tone that has a natural feel. Ivo is staunch in his refusal to change, and his family only wants to do what they can to rescue the company and their father. This is epitomised wonderfully in their final scene together at Ivo’s home during his birthday. There is a lot to like in Bird Atlas, and it remains true to itself when you fear it may just lose itself – an effective bittersweet film.
Bird Atlas will be showing on Glasgow Film Festivals digital site until March 7th.
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