Co-written and directed by Jan Svěrák (Kolya, The Elementary School), Accumulator 1 is an entertaining film that features a lot of interesting ideas, but they just don’t come together in a way that’s coherent enough to justify their existence.
The film features a pretty bizarre premise: people who have appeared on television are suddenly losing their energy and dying. The main character, a self-conscious man named Olda (Petr Forman) turns into a recluse after he misses his shot with the girl he’s interested in. He becomes so lethargic that all he does is watch TV for a whole week and loses consciousness for a couple of days. The paramedics save him by barging into his apartment, and at the hospital, he meets a mysterious man, Fišarek (Zdeněk Svěrák), who heals him with his special abilities.
Fišarek refers to himself as a natural healer. He helps people that have also suffered from the same condition as Olda. To reinvigorate himself, Fišarek advises Olda to gather energy from natural sources like exercise, the life force of trees, paintings, and even sexual stimulation. He teaches Olda how to harness the energy from these sources, and even shows him how to transfer energy over long distances…
Now, if you think that’s strange, it gets stranger. The reason Olda is losing his energy whenever he’s in front of a TV is that there are actually people living in a world inside the TV. In this world, there are copies of people from the real world that drain the life force from their real-life counterparts. The TV world is made up of several production sets with many well-known properties, such as Snow White, and genres, like westerns and adult channels. Since this world is a hedonistic paradise, the copies have no qualms about draining the energy of their real-life counterparts to stay alive.
This concept of the film would be fine if it was explored in more detail, but a lot of time is spent with Olda, who isn’t a particularly interesting, and a romantic subplot that seems entirely out of place. The love interest, Anna (Edita Brychta), only seems to exist because the film needed to have some sort of romance element. It’s hard to tell what Anna sees in Olda and the whole relationship seemed incredibly rushed. They have coffee, she invites him to her house, they play in a waterfall, and he confesses his love for her in what feels like a few days. Its a shame since Edita Brychta’s performance was incredibly endearing.
Speaking of which, the clear standout of the film is Zdeněk Svěrák’s performance as Fišarek. He is endlessly charismatic and really should’ve had more screen time dedicated to his character. He’s heavily featured in the first half of the film, but in the latter half he disappears for long spells and his absence is noticeable. There’s also a subplot about a man with the same condition as Olda who goes to live in the wilderness to escape TV — this could’ve been completely cut out and the film would have benefited from a shorter run time.
The concept of the film seemed to be poorly explained, too. The film starts introducing this fantastical element as soon as the Fišarek arrives and Olda suddenly follows him to learn more about his ways. It almost seems as if the viewer should have been made aware of the premise beforehand to help them follow what is going on. Maybe I’m seeing it from the perspective of a foreigner and some things just got lost in translation, but it just didn’t seem like the concept was well-established enough for the characters to talk about it so casually.
Visually, some shots are genuinely inventive: we get to see the inside of a vein as it’s being injected; a shot of Olda’s lungs as he’s running out of breath; and there’s even a shot from inside someone’s genitals as they’re about to climax. But there some aspects that haven’t aged well and seem unintentionally hilarious: the blue light effect from the TVs was pretty dated, and there’s a scene where a TV turns on when a remote gets caught in a mousetrap, of all things.
The film’s message is pretty on the nose. Television is literally killing people and robbing them of their life essence. This isn’t necessarily a bad metaphor, but it isn’t conveyed with enough nuance to provoke any real discussion about the negative impact of mindless self-indulgence. I mean, nowadays this idea is more relevant than ever with smartphones and social media, so the writers had enough foresight to see how this problem could affect us in the long run. I just wish the movie spent more time exploring the concept.
Although I might sound pretty negative, I did find Accumulator 1 entertaining overall. It features some interesting ideas and, even though it didn’t really deliver in its execution, it’s still an enjoyable film. If you’re looking for something that’s strange, endearing and wildly imaginative, then this is definitely worth a watch.