“Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun; and look! The tears of the oppressed, but they have no comforter – on the side of the oppressors there is power, but they have no comforter. Therefore I praised the dead who were already dead, more than the living who are still alive. Yet, better than both is he who has never existed, who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.”
“Lea” is not your typical movie, it is a profound, very profound work of art that evokes serious thinking. I personally felt a moral obligation to write a review of this film. In fact, I want to thank Mr Ivan Fila for sharing this tale with us. I must confess that I watched “Lea” twice the same day, it is such a captivating movie that one needs to watch it twice in order to absorb all its content properly.
The magical and enchanting Lea is born in a rural area of Eastern Slovakia in 1977. Her mother loves her and protects her but her father is an un-appreciative abusive monster who mistreats both Lea and her mother. Little Lea is hard working, she goes around the neighborhood selling milk in cold weather yet her father hits her in the head for no reason. He cuts the rope of Lea’s kite in order to torture her. He also makes Lea help him cutting wood even though she is just a little girl that should be playing. He hates her and calls her a bastard (he dehumanizes her by cutting her hair in order to make her look like a boy, he puts her on handcuffs).
On top of this, he abuses lea’s mother physically, emotionally, and psychologically. He even forces himself upon her and lea sees this unspeakeable abuse with her own eyes (he perceives his wife as an ‘incubator’, a soul-less human steak). Lea’s mother attempts to escape the monster’s tyranny hoping to find a better future for her daughter and for herself. Yet,the monster catches up with her and murders her in front of Lea’s eyes. There in the cold surrounded by snow Lea sees her mom die at the hands of a worthless pig. Nobody was there to help them, no one intervened…I believe at this point little lea’s psyche shuts up and she becomes entangled in a mysterious dream world. What could we expect?
(scumbags like Gahut do exist, here’s one. Check the Sun Sentinel, Thursday, February 5th, 2015)
Little Lea ends up in an asylum completely traumatized, she loses her ability to utter words (speech impaired). Her biological father, the worthless pig known as “Beno Gahut” is sentenced to life in prison. She becomes an orphan in a patriarchal society were females are perceived as “laborers” and “child bearers”.
The creative little girl who writes poems to her dead mother is then adopted by neighbors, the “Palty” family (they didn’t have any children). The man is a horse trader and his wife works in the house. They raise her though the man is not necessarily a righteouss man (he prays before dinner but his prayers are empty).
Lea creates a sacred shrine for her mother, she decorates an underground shelter near the house. She takes her mother’s urn there, she puts up a picture of her mother, and she lights up the place with many candles. She brings her poems and her beautiful color drawings as ritual-sacrificial offerings. Lea Palty becomes symbolically speaking the most devout priestess of the dead, a girl who feels more alive in the company of the dead than in the company of the living.
Sometime in 1991 Lea’s adoptive father pierces her already hurt soul with harsh words at dinner time. He sees Lea as a burden even though he adopted her out of his own will. He sees her as a crazy-impaired creature that he must profit from one way or another. He tells her the following words at dinner:
“If you don’t like it here, you can leave, Join the freaks in the circus! That’s where you belong anyway!”
(he threatens her because he knows she is a helpless orphan and he knows that she has nobody in this world. He calls her a homeless freak…)
He even has the nerve to add the following:
“I don’t pay her to talk to the dead! You’d still be in the nut-house if if weren’t for me! Don’t forget that!”
(by saying to her “I don’t pay her to talk to the dead” he insults the memory of her mother, the “ONLY” thing that has been “100% PURE” in her miserable & tortured existence)
He wanted to get rid of the responsible 21 year old lea by giving her to some horse trader guy. Palty cannot understand Lea’s love for her mother and apparently he cannot comprehend the type of abuse she has undergone. He obviously cannot understand that he is deepening her already bleeding wounds. He cannot appreciate her creative genius, her beautiful poetry, her emotinally charged illustrations, her magical violin notes, the goodness of her soul… he cannot see that the Lea that cuts wood in the cold is a gift of God, he cannot see that he is not worthy of her…He wants to give her to some “horse guy” so that he doesn’t have to spend any money on her (even though she works for him every day). He doesn’t ask her if she likes the horse guy or if she is interested in him, he just tells her that “she’s gonna go with the horse guy”. Then again, that is life.
Then something unexpected comes up. It turns out that the authoritative “Mr Palty” lives in a house that is build on land that belongs to someone else. His so called property is in the hands of a German guy. In other words, the guy who was telling Lea “If you don’t like it here, you can leave” is at somebody else’s mercy. The owner of that land is an ex-military guy named Herbert Strehlow who lives in Germany. He is wealthy and he is a furniture repairer by trade (he is German but his parents lived in Slovakia).
Since Mr Strehlow has his eye on Palty’s house, he notices Lea and decides that he wants to “BUY HER”. The German guy tells Palty that if he does not sell Lea to him for 50,000 Deutsche marks (Palty could buy 20 horses with that) he will be homeless. What a satyre! The guy who threatened Lea with homelessness is now in danger of being homeless! Mr Strehlow shows him the documents proving that the house is built in his land, the Slovakian authorities granted his claim.
Lea’s adoptive father tries to trick her into going with the German by saying that he is going to offer her a job. Lea dislikes the idea. Keep in mind that Palty never tells Lea that he will gain 50,000 from this transaction.
Mr Palty knows what Lea fears. He then threatens her by telling her that if he doesn’t go with the German he is going to take her mother’s urn. He threatens to destroy Lea’s sacred undergound shrine. Lea had gone through unspeakeable abuse throughout her life, she had been completely dehumanized. She had never been treated as a real human being yet there is Mr Palty, making 50,000 Deutsche marks from her tears (she didn’t ask him to adopt her but I guess he felt like she owes him even though she had labored very hard for him).
So there is 21 year old Lea, forced to get in a car with a stranger who is much older than her. There she is not knowing what the hell is going to happen with her or where she is going exactly…there she is, she doesn’t know anything about the 50,000 and she doesn’t even know that the German guy intends to marry her.
She is doomed to open her legs to a guy she feels nothing for, all she knows about sex is that her biological father raped her mother. So, the German guy is the 3rd “abuse figure” in her life. First came of course her ultra-abusive biological father, then came the psychological and emotional abuser who traded horses (Palty), and finally a stranger from Germany who just purchased her vagina for money. It seems that Lea was always destined for sadness.
Lea has no choice but to get in that car. What could she do? When they arrive in Germany she chooses to stay inside of it. Mr Strehlow goes inside the house warming himself by the fire, he eats and he sleeps knowing that Lea was still outside freezing. The next morning he realizes that his new acquired bride passed the night inside the car. He then grabs her by the neck and forces her inside the house (as if he was a cop arresting a criminal). He slaps her on the face and then gives her food. It is incredible,…he feels that by providing her with a roof, food, and warm fire he has the right to grab her by the neck plus he feels like he can slap her in the face.
In other words, in his eyes Lea is an attractive object, an acquired piece, property,…he can do as he pleases with her because he purchased her with pieces of paper. He probably felt that he could even kill her if he wanted to. Pieces of paper seem to be more important than a generous soul who brings beauty to the world.
So, he keeps her as a prisoner, he hits her, he forces her to play the violin while he works on his furniture pieces,…he throws a table on her when he is enraged,…etc. He abuses the hell out of his 21 year old wife.
Deep inside Mr Strehlow is not a bad person, he is traumatized too though his issues are not monumental like Lea’s issues. He had lost his ex-wife, Sophie, in a car accident on the day of his honeymoon (in France). After this somber event he dedicated his life to the military and accomplishes great things there. Yet deep inside he is lonely and enraged despite his wealth. So, he finds tender-innocent Lea and he puts handcuffs on her just like her biological father…this is why in her poems Lea describes Mr Strehlow as “my master the bear” as if implying that he is a monster just like her father ( a new version of her father).
Strehlow does a few nice things for Lea. After all, isn’t he supossed to make his wife happy? He buys her a wedding dress even though she didn’t want to marry him, He buys her pink flowers, he buys her stamps (even though he only gives them to her as a “reward” for what he considers “good behavior”), he purchases her a 70 year old violin, he gets her an art studio so that she doesn’t have to go to the abandoned chapel anymore,…and finally he takes her to the ocean. Lea had never seen the ocean in her entire life.
Lea had very few happy times in her life. Her happiest times were probably back in Slovakia when she used to dwell into her undergound dream world venerating her mom. In Germany she meets a half Slovakian female translator that appreciates her poetry. Her name is Wanda. This lady tries to indirectly help Lea by subliminally influencing the angry bear named Strehlow (Lea gives Wanda earings from Slovakia as a gift).
At some point one of Strehlow’s friends appreciates Lea through her violin playing, he kisses her hand after she finished playing a piece. This apparently insignificant event is one of the few good things that happen to Lea also.
The German guy, Strehlow, he takes Lea on a trip to Slovakia, there she secretly visits her mom’s sacred shrine of course.
Lea dies on her birthday after seeing the ocean, she was only 22. Shed had a stroke, she had suffered from severe temporary migraines. Mr Strehlow is left alone once again, first he lost Sophie & now he had lost Lea. He does something nice, he takes her remains back to Slovakia (to her mom’s underground shrine). He put her photo right next to her mom’s. I guess in the end all the divine missions were fulfilled here:
Palty the psychological abuser received 50,000 because of Lea plus he got to keep his house. He was compensated for the shelter and the food he had given Lea (Lea owed him absolutely nothing since he betrayed her completely).
Lea received what she needed from the German, meaning a roof & food (even though he abused the hell out of her). She married him against her will, one could say that she was “ravished” symbolically speaking.
The German became “humanized” through tender Lea, she healed his emotional wounds. I would even say that maybe to a certain extent she “spiritualized” him as well.
Lea lived 22 years of absolute abuse and torture, I guess in the end death “liberated” her from her misery plus she wanted to reunite with her mother in the other side.
I seriously recommend this movie to anyone who is moved by true art that holds nothing back. As I mentioned before: this is not just a movie, this is a majestic-brilliant work of art that must be watched. This film is a masterpiece without any doubt on my mind. Lea is one of the best movies I have watched in my entire life.
I feel a compulsion to share what I found in the chronicles of Caesar. His “Gallic wars” speaks of barbarities that shocked me but, I found something specific that automatically reminded me of “Lea” (even though Lea is “Slavic”, not a Gaul). In the section “Customs and institutions of the Gauls” Caesar speaks of the absolutely inhumane treatment that women underwent when Rome was busy conquering Gauls, Britons, & Germans. This is what Caesar says about the Gauls:
“Husbands have power of life and death over their wives as well as the children. When a high-born head of a family dies, his relatives assemble, and if the circumstances of his death are suspicious, they examine his widow under torture, as we examine slaves; if her guilt is established, she is consigned to the flames and put to death with the most cruel torments.”
(The Gallic Wars, Caesar. Book VI.19 [customs and institutions of the Gauls])
This particular observation of Caesar sheds light on the bizarre and repulsive behavior of Benu Gahut (Lea’s father). In Book V.6 Herodotus mentions something very grotesque which also reminded me of Lea, he mentions a people called “the Thracians” who had the custom of selling their offspring to traders.
Lea: Lenka Vlasakova.
Check out the following films:
• “La Sconosciuta” (the unknown woman) by Giuseppe Tornatore. This is an extremely sad movie.
• “Daughter of Keltoum” (Bent Keltoum) by Mehdi Chareff. This is also an extremely sad movie.
• “Chloe” by Atom Egoyan. A great movie.
• “Safe haven”, directed by Lasse Hallstrom. A nice film.
• “The girl with the dragon tattoo”, by David Fincher. Excellent film!
Thank you for your time.