DOXA 2013: Simple and effective Two Nil captures life in the soccer stands

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      Ingeniously simple and effective, this Czech feature takes the sport out of pro sports and focuses instead on the industry’s emotional engine: the stands—the funny, toilet-mouthed, occasionally frightening stands.

      Director Pavel Abrahám set up over 20 cameras throughout Prague’s Generali Arena on April 11, 2011, the day of the 274th derby between century-old soccer rivals Sparta and Slavia. None of the static lenses are aimed at the pitch or the players, however. They take in various rows of battered seats, a VIP section, a glassed-in private box, a guard rail at field level, a concession-area table, even a serene cluster of trees near the stadium.

      It all starts out quiet and empty but for a few sweepers and police officers with their sniffer dogs. But by the time the place fills up and the game stirs, we’ve been introduced to the cast of characters that Abrahám will return to again and again. Down by the sidelines, a pair of goofy stadium workers debate the musical and physical merits of Ke$ha. Up in the high-end seats, a couple of drunk kids yell obscenities and make large online bets. Elsewhere, detached teenage girls gossip and fix their makeup, and a tubby, gleaming-eyed fan berates players on both sides. A megaphone-led pack of Slavia supporters runs through such delightful, time-honoured chants as “Sparta fans, I’ll stab you…You Commie buggers,” while little boys kitted out in team merch discuss the finer points of life as a seven-year-old.

      Abrahám artfully cycles through these and more as he builds a portrait of individuals behaving in groups. It’s all here: the bitter humour, the excitement of shared drama, the casual racism, the absurd divisions of wealth, the boredom, the driving urge to belong that are always and everywhere with us but that get squeezed into the open by the pressure of the crowd.

      Two Nil is about one night and one game. It’s also about the bizarre energy of life in the modern West.

      Watch the trailer for Two Nil.

      Two Nil screens on Sunday (May 12) at the Cinematheque at 12:00 p.m.