Knoflíkáři / Buttoners (Czech Republic, 1997)

directed by Petr Zelenka, tragicomedy, 102 min, eng subtitles


This film, which is distantly reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch´s Night on Earth (1991), examines parallels between interconnected events. Petr Zelenka wrote and directed a film which formally combines an American independent movie poetic with Buñuelesque absurdity. Several bizarre stories of minor personal perversions are linked by interweaving plot lines, and unified by the character of an American pilot who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. Knoflíkáři shows that our knowledge of the events and narratives in which we take part is always imperfect and partial. It is not within our power to encompass everything; hence our knowledge of the world always remains incomplete. Zelenka likes ironic mystification which he often presents to the viewer by means of mock documentaries. Knoflíkáři consists of six, seemingly independent chapters, but we soon realise that they are all closely interlinked by mutually shared motifs as well as by cause and effect. The result of the protagonists acting without sufficient knowledge about their situation is the main theme of the film. The film is full of restlessness. It seems that this reflects the experience of the Czech Republic in the first years since the fall of communism – everything is destabilised and in chaos. Insecurity is widespread. Everything is in motion. Society is fragmented. Everyone is alone. Relationships, based on love and trust, do not exist. The only couple in the film who sincerely love each other, is killed.


Prix Europa Berlin 1997
Czech Lion 1997 (Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor in a supporting role)
IFF Rotterdam 1997 (Best Film)
IFF Valladolid 1997 (FIPRESCI Prize)
IFF Thessaloniki 1997 (Special Prize of the Jury, Best Screenplay)
IFF Tallin 1997 (Grand Prix)