Writer and director Olmo Omerzu pokes fun at a crumbling family empire in his latest feature Bird Atlas, co-written with his regular collaborator Petr Pýcha. The sharp black comedy plot centres around patriarchal figure Ivo (Miroslav Donutil) who has long been at the helm of a large electronics firm. A shocking discovery within his company’s finances leads to a heart attack, so his family soon rally to show their support, including his son Martin (Martin Pechlát), first in line to inherit the business. After some investigation, all suspicions lead to Ivo’s accountant Marie (Alena Mihulová) who’s been enjoying a blossoming romance with a mysterious American soldier.
On top of the main plotline, Omerzu weaves other ideas into the smartly conceived narrative, and while the storytelling ambition is admirable, not every element really has the desired effect. Unexplained military sequences interrupt family matters, only really making sense as the story reaches the halfway mark. In Ivo’s quiet moments of reflection over the pressing concerns of his life’s work and his children’s loyalty, he receives quirky nuggets of wisdom from surrounding feathered friends, tying in with the film’s title and in reference to an earlier joke about his intimate relationships. While the script’s wry sense of humour might not always stick the landing with international audiences, the material is elevated by Donutil’s dedicated and vital performance as the no-nonsense protagonist.
Bird Atlas is an accomplished effort that will no doubt further the growing reputation of its inventive director. Due to the nature of the piece, comparisons have been drawn between the tale of this turbulent tribe and HBO’s media mogul saga Succession. It might be slightly unfair to pit it against one of the best written shows of the century so far, but the similarities are definitely earned when it comes to the amusingly vitriolic nature of the leading role.