' ' Cinema Romantico: The Icing

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Icing

Icing in hockey terminology denotes a penalty wherein a player launches an untouched puck past the center line and the opposing team’s goal line. It was concocted as a means to prevent teams ahead in the game from stalling. And so it’s apropos that this term gives “The Icing” its title. After all, Klara (Zuzana Stavná) has just been married to Stepan (Ondrej Sokol), but nothing comes across peachy keen in this brand new union. Instituting an old wedding tradition, Iveta (Hana Vagnerová), the female best man, has kidnapped the bride and taken her to a sports bar in the Czech countryside, empty because its owner, Vladana (Jana Stryková), cannot get the big hockey match to come up on TV. And rather than immediately commencing with the nirvana that society implies is foregone so long as you have a ring on your finger, these three ladies drink to forget what hasn’t even happened yet. Klara may have said “I do”, but she’s delaying the start of her marriage, trying to sort out what obviously still weighs on her mind.

Jan Hrebejk's “The Icing” is an examination of those tenuous “modern” concepts of marriage and monogamy as viewed through the lens of farce. Literally set on a dark and stormy night in an empty bar, each grand revelation being punctuated with a clap of thunder while also providing cutaways to the rain-soaked back roads which the groom and the male maid of honor desperately try to navigate, yielding a road kill punchline. The reversals are fast and furious, re-arranging everyone’s relationship with one another, re-leveling the playing field, again and again.

Klara seems unsettled from the very instant she sidles into the bar, eyeing Iveta as possible competition for the man she’s just married which, as it happens, is entirely true. Stepan, however, is eventually revealed as something of a low-key twat, high on himself and none too guilty about sleeping with two women at once. In his mind, fidelity is archaic, and consequently, Klara and Iveta simultaneously swooning and metaphorically clawing at one another over him becomes increasingly lamentable. Vladana’s hockey-playing beau, meanwhile, is long since gone, having left her the bar she now owns, an albatross which she's trying to discard by wagering a healthy chunk of her savings on the massive Czech-Slovakia hockey game she unfortunately cannot view. If she wins, she figures it will be enough to re-start. You can likely guess how that goes.

It’s all headed toward confessions and eruptions of emotion, of course, but as the storm lessens and the story deepens, it quietly trades in its absurdist comicality for something approaching authentically tragic. As this mismatched yet entirely deserving trio limps across “The Icing’s” finish line, the film draws a surprisingly graceful and sardonic parallel between a sports bet and a walk down the aisle. Lay down your bets and hope you don't bust.

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