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Lea (1996)

Cast: Lenka Vlasakova, Christian Redl, Hanna Schygulla, more...
Director: Ivan Fila
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Studio: Facets
Genre: Drama, Foreign, Germany
Running Time: 96 min.
Languages: German
Subtitles: English
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A woman uses poetry to communicate the emotions she cannot verbalize in this drama. At the age of seven, Lea has already become accustomed to verbal and physical abuse from her father, but when she witnesses the rape and murder of her mother during one of her father's particularly vicious tirades, the event traumatizes her so severely that she's struck dumb. With her dying words, Lea's mother encourages her to write, and as she's raised by foster parents only marginally more compassionate than her father, Lea writes poems in her mother's memory and has built an underground shrine where she posts her work. When Lea (Lenka Vlasakova) turns 21, her stepfather is approached by Strehlow (Christian Redl), a wealthy German who offers him a large amount of money for Lea's hand in marriage; the stepfather accepts without explaining the situation to his daughter. Strehlow proves to be as cruel as the other people in Lea's life; after forcing her to marry him, he keeps her chained inside his house and beats her when she refuses to obey his wishes. However, in time Stehlow becomes aware of Lea's poetry, and after it's translated into German from the original Slovak by a local woman (Hanna Schygulla), Strehlow becomes aware of Lea's humanity, and her words reach a reserve of compassion that lurks deep below the surface. Director Ivan Fila won awards for his work on Lea at the Venice and Brussels Film Festivals, and the film received a Golden Globe nomination as Best Foreign Language film. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

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