Petr Kazda and Tomás Weinreb’s first feature is a blow-by-blow dramatization in black-and-white of what led twenty-year-old Olga Hepnarová to rent a truck on July 10, 1973, and plow into twenty people on a Prague sidewalk, killing eight and injuring twelve — and becoming the last Czech woman and one of the last Europeans to be sentenced to execution. I, Olga Hepnarová is a stoic and sobering character study of a lonely young lesbian murderess shunned by those around her. “I know I’m a psycho, but an enlightened one. One day you’ll pay for your laughter and my tears,” Olga (Michalina Olszanska) says in the one moment she speaks directly to the camera.
Director of photography Adam Sikora uses static wide shots that make people look small and insignificant, abstracting Seventies Prague into psychogeography as Olga fights with her mom, takes punches from school bullies, and increasingly isolates herself from society. As Olga, Olszanska (also seen in Polish cannibal mermaid musical The Lure) carries the film. Her hair is bobbed, her head is bent, and her shoulders are hunched — she looks crushed from the weight of the world. A top performance for this year so far, Olszanksa’s Olga is standoffish, frequently smoldering, rarely smiling, and she toes the line between intelligence and insanity. I, Olga Hepnarová is a bitter pill to swallow, focusing on the paradoxes of a misanthrope.
I, Olga Hepnarová
Directed by Petr Kazda and Tomás Weinreb
Opens March 24, Village East Cinema