Finding Eden: “Záhrada” [1995 Slovakia] (updated)

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Made in a newly born Slovakia, Martin Sulík’s charming comedy drama “Záhrada” [Eng. Title: The Garden] nods to the Czechoslovak New Wave in no uncertain regard – particularly in its depiction of ‘surreal’ realism, often seen in works by Vera Chytilová and Juraj Jakubisko, where elements from folklore, mysticism, and religion are freely infused into a narrative otherwise rooted in realism.

It’s the story of tailor’s son Jakub (Roman Luknár) who’s about to start a new job as school teacher. Whiling away in his father’s (Marián Labuda) apartment, Jakub has little to occupy himself with before starting work, except fool around with married woman Tereza (Jana Svandová) who happens to be one of his father’s valued customers. Promptly ticked off after the father catches him in the act with Tereza (the scene is quite funny), Jakub is despatched to the country, to fix and sell his grandfather’s property – a garden with a farmhouse, falling apart since it has not been occupied for a while. That is where he’ll meet Helena (Zuzana Sulajová), a beautiful young teenager with magical powers. He’ll also be visited by other strange characters, like the shepherd who calls himself Saint Benedict, a bully who’ll succeed in exchanging his broken down banger for Jakub’s perfectly working car. ‘Itchy’ Tereza arrives to take him back, but the most frequent visitor will be Helena herself – turning up occasionally with welts all over her legs and back, allegedly caused by her mother. He falls in love with Helena, and will soon have to choose between returning to the city to build a career, and living in the farmhouse with the angelic Helena…

Wonderfully quirky films like these manage to transport you to a different world with their own logic and order. They cannot be analysed any more deeply than a well-written fairy tale. But the film is essentially about love, forgiveness, sacrifice, turning a new leaf, and celebrating life itself. Shot with warm colours, the cinematography is very appealing, and for a comedy, the director has admirably completed his scenes with the least number of shots. They look spontaneous and natural, thanks also to good support from the main cast. Alongside Tuvalu, it is probably the most enchanting film reviewed in the blog to date, and certainly, Highly Recommended Viewing..! DVD Link [PAL]


The Nudity: Jana Svandová, Roman Luknár, and Zuzana Sulajová
Jana Svandová was in her late forties when she played Tereza in the film, and her role is that of a seductress, spending most of her screen time trying to wrap Jakub around her little finger. There are two scenes of hers in the nude, and the one where they’re caught red handed by Jakub’s dad is both sexy and funny. Roman Laknár briely appears nude while emerging from a bath. Zuzana Sulajová – she reminds us of a young Ornella Muti, was only seventeen when the film came out. Her nude scene is but a brief flash while changing before getting into bed . The extended scene (unmastered) shows a little bit more of her, because of it being in full-frame – the main film is in widescreen.

Zuzana Sulajová and Zuzana Berkyová nude in Záhrada aka The Garden

Jana Svandová struts her charms with gay abandon as much as a young Zuzana Sulajová enchants us with her presence in Martin Sulik’s magical “Záhrada” aka “The Garden”.



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