Zlín Film Fest Review: ‘Ducat Rock’ a Broad Czech Dud
At this year’s Film Festival in Zlín, the worst film I happened to catch was unfortunately a local Czech production: Dukátová skála (Ducat Rock), which begins as a benign fairy tale and turns into a dreadful missing-children comedy.
It starts out well enough, with some picturesque drone footage capturing the central location: the ruins of Lukov Castle, one of the largest and oldest castles in Moravia, and a stone’s throw from Zlín.
The titular Ducat Rock is a large and unusual vertical rock jutting out from the ground at the base of the Castle, and the subject of local folklore: an opening prologue tells us of the Black Lady, a one-time princess who threw herself from the Castle’s balcony rather than marry a man after her wealth.
The Rock grew where she landed, and now her ghost haunts the Castle ruins to protect its hidden treasure.
That treasure could be just what wheelchair-bound Pavel (Samuel Gyertyák) needs to be able to afford an operation to walk again. Together with a neighboring brother & sister, a young girl from a travelling one-van carnival, and the local bully and mayor’s son who was responsible for his injury, he sets out to unlock the Castle’s mystery.
And as the kids sneak around the Castle ruins, stealing scrolls and decoding puzzles, Dukátová skála is passable fluff. This is a TV-level production, but it’s hard to hate a film about a boy in wheelchair hunting for buried treasure so he can repair his legs and walk again.
Halfway through, however, the whole thing veers right off a cliff as the five children we’ve been following disappear from the rest of the movie. They just walk right into the titular rock, and then we follow their bumbling parents through a broadly comic version of Prisoners.
When police call off the search for the five missing children after a couple of days (!), their mothers (Kateřina Brožová, Kristýna Kociánová, Daniela Choděrová, and model and local celebrity Petra Faltýnová, in her big screen debut) are left to sob while their husbands and other local townsmen (Filip Blažek, Martin Zounar, Martin Sitta, and Andrej Hryc) just shrug their shoulders.
But town drunk and Castle tour guide Martin Dejdar knows exactly what happened to the kids - if only he can get anyone to listen to him.
The rest of the film is, alternately, scenes of the adults in a local pub talking about searching for the kids, and scenes of the adults walking through the woods and shouting the kids’ names.
Mind you, this tense days-long search for missing children in the wilderness is handled with all the care of a spoof comedy. Ducat Rock was directed by Ján Novák, whose previous film happens to be Kameňák 4 - the fourth entry in a series of Czech comedy films that might be the country’s most embarrassing franchise.
While the first half of the film is squarely aimed at children, many of whom were in attendance during the world premiere in Zlín, the second half is a real head-scratcher that will leave all viewers squirming in their seats.