Empties (Sverak, 2006)

Find out, that we have been replaced is not very pleasant. It is like someone telling us, that whatever we do is not good enough. Jan Sverak’s film Empties talks about inutility, infidelity and desire for change. Around sixty years old Josef, language teacher, decides to change his career and start something new.

As a lot of people in his age, he deals with usual everyday problems, trying to find his place in the world.

Film is interesting mostly for being open to all different viewers, since the main characters are in situations which any of us can find themselves in. Josef feels like something is not right and he needs change. He quits his job, tries to work as postman, but finally accepts job as person who recycle bottles in shops where he is actually very happy. What makes him upset is his daughter Helena, getting divorce because her husband cheated. Josef tries to set up Helena with his former colleague Land, IT teacher, and he also helps Rezac, his current colleague, by encouraging him to ask one of their customer out.

000d94b7Meanwhile Josef finds himself not attracted to his wife Eliska as much as he used to be. Their relationship is keystone in film, showing Eliska as woman who realizes her unattractiveness and is resigned to be old, on the other hand Josef, dissatisfied and always annoyed senior who wants change.

The main surprise is when Josef finds out that the window where he used to collect bottles is being replaced by recycling machine. Jan Sverak compares infidelity to changing something old for something new. In this particular case, it is Josef and Rezak losing their job, in other situation they are partners who are cheated on. At first, it is Helena, who is replaced by her husband because of being too soft. Later, Josef himself tries to be unfaithful, but failing (his former colleague wrote him letter, inviting him to come over, but he messes up dates and meets her husband). And as we find out later, even Eliska goes to get a coffee with Mr Wasserbauer, which shows how she plays with thought of being unfaithful as well.

Thanks to Zdenek Sverak who wrote script is Josef realistic and authentic character. He made him unique, but funny and ordinary at the same time. I have to point out, that also other characters were written very well and I was incredibly happy with choice of actors.

Visual or any special effects are not highlighted, but that is to make it easier for a viewer to be focused on stories of our protagonists, not how was film shot.


We hear a lot about Josef’s physical problems, which may confuse some, since Empties deals more with internal than physical problems of older person. At the beginning, when the camera focuses only in the middle, the viewer discovers that Josef has a breakdown, because he was being provoked by one of his students. He overreacts, has a tick in the face or he confuses days of the week. Overall, however, this image was filmed in chronological order, in a simple manner with respect to the sphere of action. I altered the scene where he falls on a bicycle, which was perhaps too stylized. Aimless for me was Mr Wasserbauer’s incapability to properly speak and also the problem of infidelity in the Tkaloun family occurred three times which I felt was too much.


A lot of people in Josef’s age will find themselves in his shoes, but Empties talks about younger generation’s problems as well, which younger generation dealing with which attracts more viewers. In addition, the variety of plot twists will give us answers to our questions or at least it will make us to walk away with a smile and an amusement.

One of the main elements of film is the train which first occurs in Joseph’s deepest imagination. And at the end, Jan Sverak shows Josef as train conductor, indicating that after all, one of his desires is fulfilled.