Actor-director Filip Renc’s “Requiem pro panenku” [Requiem for a Maiden] is based on true events that happened in 1984, when a troubled fourteen year old girl was interned in the wrong institution – she should have gone into social care following abuse at home, but instead ended up in a mental asylum.
Marika (Anna Geislerová) alerts the mostly female staff of the administrative mistake but few will take her seriously, while some are clearly reluctant to see her leave – the place was more or less a prison, where patients are frequently abused, and occasionally killed due to medication overdose. Marika, not helped by her own assertiveness and rebellious behaviour, becomes their target, and a women among them will also become sexually obsessed with her. Marika’s attempts at directly contacting authorities lands her in further trouble, and when she escapes, is captured and brought back to endure further misery. Out of desperation, she sets fire to the hospital that will also kill some inmates. The film fast-forwards to a few years later (after Marika had served time in prison for arson) to show her walking amongst the ruins of the once-infamous asylum.
I was reminded of this film after reading a recent news report of a Russian mental institution that was gutted by fire that also killed several inmates. It appears that in most countries, old practices in state-run facilities – of ignoring warning signs and papering the failings, truly die hard. In the Czech incident, three staff members were punished for professional misconduct, as was Marika, but the people who wrongly placed her in the asylum got off scot-free. As for the film, apart from the retelling of a horrendous incident, the most noteworthy aspect is the actress playing the lead character – it oversaw the starring début of Anna Geislerová who was only fourteen at the time of production. She will go on to become a major actress over the years, also working with award-winning directors such as Jan Sverák and Jan Svankmajer. One of the last films made in the old Czechoslovakia, the gritty and melodramatic drama can also be appreciated for its historic credentials. Recommended Viewing..!
Amazon DVD Link [PAL] (No subtitles)
The Nudity: Anna Geislerová
Anna Geislerová appears briefly nude in several scenes, and while it is interesting to see how little she’d changed over the years, the scenes themselves are not particularly pleasant to watch.