“Born Into Shit” (2006)

Yes, I ordered this movie solely because of the title, which stuck out like a sore thumb as I perused imdb.com’s list of every movie ever made. Though released in the Czech Republic in 2006, it was acquired by Los Angeles-based Seminal Films in 2010 and released on DVD in the US; as such, I found it quite easily and cheaply on Amazon.

Though obviously inspired by the nihilistic/stylishly violent films of Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino, I enjoyed “Born Into Shit” considerably more than any film by the former director. There are three stories told separately that sort of interlap, and I liked the Brechtian device of showing the audience, at the beginning of each segment, little snippets of the action about to unfold. We know from the start, for instance, that one of the characters is a hit man who–oddly enough–uses empty soda bottles instead of silencers to muffle his guns. We see grainy, muddy, slow-motion shots of people being shot point blank through this method, and we can’t wait to see those pop up again.

Most of the film is narrated by a middle school kid, who comically loathes his parents, who loathe each other. The kid catches his dad with another man, whom he knows to be gay, so he thinks his dad is gay, and soon after thinks he himself is gay. To prove that he’s not, he has sex with his girlfriend, who soon gets pregnant. Meanwhile, the boy’s devout Christian mother saves a suicidal woman from a train crash death; that woman soon seduces her. (It’s impossible to tell if the writer/director, Marcel Bystron, is empathetic to the characters’ uncertainty about their sexual orientation, is making fun of homophobia or is homophobic himself; the characters’ mute misery and detachment are so exaggerated that it’s hard to really get inside their heads, or their creator’s).

Anyway, the father turns out to not be gay; his big secret is that he’s a hit man, the same guy with the Coke bottle gun. There’s a big climactic shootout at a cabin in the woods; the comic capper is that a woman is giving birth in the midst of the shootout, and almost gets shot herself, but the dad saves her. I already forgot what becomes of the pregnant girlfriend and the lesbian affair, but you don’t watch this film for heavy insight into the psychological dynamics of miserable families. You watch it for the kooky, glib, sarcastic voiceovers, the kookier gunfire, and the kooky delight of hearing its characters mumble a negative, pseudo-intellectual life lesson every twenty minutes or so, topped off with a pensive utterance of “Born into…shit.” Amen.

Interesting tidbit: to sway American audiences, “Born Into Shit” was marketed as one of the oddest amalgams imaginable: “It’s Crash meets In Bruges and Juno…in Prague!” Suffice it to say that, teen pregnancy subplot aside, “Born Into Shit” is absolutely NOT like any of these films, in tone, temperament or style. It’s more like Truffaut meets Guy Ritchie and Kurt Vonnegut…in Prague. And for that I’d say it’s worth checking out.

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