Kolya (1996)

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Released 14-Apr-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Trailer-Gadjo Dilo; Samsara; Satin Rouge; Swing;
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 104:54
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (68:16) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jan Sverak

Madman Entertainment
Starring Zdenek Sverak
Andrej Chalimon
Libuse Safrankova
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $28.95 Music Ondrej Soukup

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Czech Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Louka (Zdenek Sverak) is a musician living in Czechoslovakia who followed his mother’s advice – in your life you can either have music or family, but not both. Louka chose music. But, after being thrown out of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra by the Soviets who believed he was a potential defector, Louka is always running short of money. In between restoring gravestones and seducing married women who want to learn the Cello, he pines for a new car and borrows money to cover the persistent expenses of his mother’s home. Then one day Broz (Ondrej Vetchy), the local grave digger, offers him the chance to get rich quick; marry a Russian bride. But when things go bad, Louka is left caring for a little boy named Kolya (Andrej Chalimon).

    There is no clear plot here, at least not in a conventional Hollywood sense; this film is really a series of comedic vignettes carrying forward an overall simple story arc. Despite the fact that this process sometimes seems somewhat meandering, it is hard not to be enchanted by the film. Its easy-going nature and light-hearted humour keep you entertained without bogging you down with too many heavy concepts. Certainly, there is quite a lot of subtext to this film. Set against the backdrop of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the imminent Czech independence from the Soviet ‘liberation’ (read ‘expansionist occupation’) post-World War II, there is plenty of conflict between the Czech Louka and the Russian Kolya on a cultural level. But rather than getting down deep and dirty into these character facets, director Jan Sverak is more than happy to have a few laughs at the whole concept and leave it at that.

    On top of all that, Kolya boasts some excellent performances, most notably by Sverak and the young Chalimon. The extras are also quite good. And although only the central roles require any serious emotional depth in their portrayals, comedy has its own necessities (i.e. timing) in order for it to be successfully performed, but the entire cast are more than capable of rising to the challenge.

    While certainly much of the humour in this is very subtle and of an Eastern European flavour most of the time, it is hard not to enjoy this film, and it’s certainly one that I will be revisiting.

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Transfer Quality


    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, 16x9 enhanced, this is the original aspect ratio.

    The quality of the picture is quite good, although admittedly a little soft. I don’t really understand exactly why this is the case, but I would certainly suggest that the film stock and processing methods used to make this film were not of the standard of contemporary Hollywood. Shadow detail is quite acceptable, but there is a bit of grain and colours lack the vibrancy of most films made in the West. Again, most of these faults are likely to do with the source and not the transfer process.

    MPEG artefacts are only minimal, but there is some low-level noise present.

    Film artefacts were not too bad: dirt pops up fairly frequently in the opening and closing sequences around the credits, but this is not too distracting. There is only one really distracting artefact which is a white blotch which appears in the top left hand corner of the screen at 36:19.

    The subtitles (available only in English) are yellow with black borders and are easy to read but they have a tendency to create soft ghost images of themselves. There were a couple of typos (things like ‘there’ instead of ‘their’) but nothing that makes the dialogue indecipherable for those of us who do not speak Czech.

    This is a dual layered disc with the pause at 68:16. This occurs during a scene change and is not overly distracting.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is one soundtrack available – a Czech 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo track.

    Being a largely dialogue-driven film, and considering tone and inflection are still important even though you do not necessarily understand what is being said, it is good to note that dialogue is clear at all times – clear enough to read the emotions in the voices.

    The music has a fairly decent range, but lacks the ambience which generally comes with a surround sound field. This is quite a loss as much of the film revolves around the music which is central to Louka’s life.

    There is little to no surround ambience and no subwoofer use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    All menus are presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. They are static with the theme song playing in 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo.

Featurette – “Behind The Scenes” (20:38)

    Presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo. This is a good look at the making of the film, with interviews with the principal cast and crew. Thankfully, it is also subtitled in English.

Trailer - “Gadjo Dilo” (1:36)

    Presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo. This looks freaky as hell.

Trailer - “Samsara” (2:15)

    Presented in 1.85:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo.

Trailer - “Satin Rouge” (1:38)

    Presented in 1.85:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo.

Trailer - “Swing” (1:31)

    Presented in 1.66:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The R1 release has only one extra feature: a French 2.0 Dolby Stereo Soundtrack. If this is important to you, maybe you might want to get it in R1. For me, it makes absolutely no difference. Given the trade off in NTSC versus PAL I would still go for the R4 release, but let’s just settle this with a draw.


    Kolya is a sweet-natured and light-hearted comedy. The plot is simple, the acting good and the overall effect memorable. Definitely worth a watch.

    The video is good, but obviously not a top of the line transfer.

    The sound is pretty stock standard.

    The extras were largely promotional stuff, but the featurette was pretty good.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Friday, July 11, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko 28" (16x9). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationMarantz SR7000
SpeakersEnergy - Front, Rear, Centre & Subwoofer

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