Am I just an object of study for you, René asks Helena, the director of the film, in one of their numerous conversations during the 20 years, she has followed the child/the youngster/theman René, who spends most of his life time behind bars sentenced for robberies. Nobody is never only an object, she responds, and indeed the film gives you the impression that she helps him strongly financially and supports him in the organising of his career as a writer, who gets his books published. He has a lot to thank Helena for, and he does so in the film.
However, the film loses its truthfulness as the director does not reflect on her own role towards René. He is quite open about himself, but we dont hear how she must have been trying to get him out of the disastrous life he leads – or about her general relationship to him. She has opinions about this, I am sure, I was maybe in love with you, René says at a certain moment… She must have felt this, but it is not in the narrative. Or how did she feel when he robbed her flat! In other words she stays at a distance as an anonymous voice behind the camera. A wrong choice I think. No doubts, no feelings about this constant filming a man in trouble, she insists on studying him, as he said. And she receives a lot of ”Dear Helena…” letters.
She does that with a lot of empathy, absolutely, it is – as the Germans would have said – ”eine Dokumentation” of a life of a human being, who had a bad childhood and never made it to be ”a useful member of society” as he phrases it himself, ”sinking lower and lower”. But we did not get the whole story.
Czech Republic, 2008, 83 mins.
EFA Documentary Award as Best European Documentary. First Prize at DOKLeipzig.