When you look up Ucho in the 1001 book, you see a picture of a drunk woman wearing a newspaper hat and pointing to the side. It makes it seem like Ucho would be some sort of comedy (maybe not in the same vein as Daisies, but still something mostly comedic), but that’s pretty far from the truth. Instead, Ucho is a film that combines the domestic battles of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with the surveillance-based paranoia of The Lives Of Others.
It’s worth mentioning that this film about a couple cracking under the paranoia of their house potentially being bugged (to the point that they get physically violent with each other) was made behind the Iron Curtain in 1970 and was banned by the Czech government for 19 years. It wasn’t until the Cannes festival of 1990 that this film properly saw the light of day.
Maybe it’s because of this long censorship that Ucho really isn’t that well known, but it really should be on a bunch of to-watch lists. The way that this film ends up being a paranoia-laced pressure cooker with an insidious ending, well, it sticks with you.
What also sticks with you is how amazing the two leading performances are in, let’s just remember, a film that was pretty much destined to be banned. In real life the two actors really were marries, which explains the chemistry that gives real weight to the fights and makings up of this couple as they’re put through an emotional wringer. What’s even more spectacular about these performances is how convincing and seamless the changes in dynamics are, which leads to a number of allegiance changes by you as the viewer.
Adding to the sense of unease are the numerous flashbacks to a party for the ministers where Kachyňa carefully paces the reveals to keep the tension going whilst also ratcheting up some of the more surreal aspects of the movie. It makes for a watch that really exceeded my expectations and one I would really recommend.