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Milada

Year: 2017
Production Co: Loaded Vision Entertainment
Director: David Mrnka
Writer: David Mrnka/Robert J Conant/Robert Gant
Cast: Ayelet Zurer

Not usually the kind of movie I'd watch, it just happened to be one made by producers who've optioned the script of a guy I know, so it made me curious enough to watch it.

Like the more widely known A Hidden Life, which I also watched recently, it tells the true story of Milada Horáková, a Czech politician and political activist who spent her entire life fighting against authoritarian regimes.

We meet a middle aged lady attending some ornate government building where she's evidently going to take part in some ceremony, aided by PR handlers and assistants, but before the formalities start she asks to see whatever it is they're going to present to her. It turns out to be a cache of letters written by her mother, a crusading political figure in the war and postwar period in what was then Czechoslovakia.

Though is isn't featured in the film, the real Milada was expelled from university for protesting at the end of the First World War. By the time the Second World War has rolled around she's an active and intelligent force of nature in the Government department covering social welfare in Prague.

When the country falls to the Nazis and many of her contemporaries and allies are either too scared to do anything or throw their lot in with what everyone assumes will be the winning side, she joins the underground resistance movement, trying to stay one step ahead of the occupying authorities with her husband and daughter but captured while they try to escape and imprisoned.

She narrowly misses the executioners chair when they instead give her an eight month sentence, but it's cut short by the end of the war when American troops advance and take Czechoslovakia back.

But a new political threat is building when Soviet Russia takes control of the country in the postwar carve up of Europe, and suddenly Milada's colleagues and contemporaries are imposing pressure to join with a political movement no less brutal than the one they just got out from under.

When the communists take full control, Milada resigns her political post in protest but stays behind to try to work in secret even while many of her former friends flee to the West.

The last third of the film shows the direct political targeting she faces, Russian agents directing a campaign of harassment of her and murder of those closest to her, eventually throwing her in prison and a sentence characterised by abuse and deprivation before her ultimate fate.

When I realised halfway through (it wasn't hard to figure out given the timeline) that the woman showing up in the opening wasn't Milada at all but her grown daughter Jana, I was genuinely saddened by what happened to Milada, and while there's nothing outstanding in any technical field like the acting and writing to the cinematography and the editing, it's a worthy story that deserved to be told of a brave and principled woman.

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