Peter "Koza" Baláz is a former Olympic boxer. He and his partner, Misa, live in a dilapidated housing estate, constantly struggling to make ends meet. Misa learns that she is expecting a child and decides to terminate her pregnancy. In order to earn some much-needed cash and possibly change Misa's mind. He and his manager Zvonko embark on a "tour", where success is not measured in victories, but in the amount of blows that Koza can take.
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★★★★ review by Scott Pfeiffer on Letterboxd
This hushed, taut boxing movie by Ivan Ostrochovský (Slovakia, 2015), who co-wrote, seems designed to drain away every romantic Hollywood boxing trope. There is no score, the fights are shown from one stationary camera angle (when they are shown at all), and even the training sequences do not inspire. Rather, when the titular bull-headed character, a washed-up pugilist (Peter Baláz) whose name means “goat,” runs across wintry fields in parallel with the truck driven by his cynical trainer (Nikola Bongilajová), what registers is exhausted doggedness. (In this movie, the truck is actually more of an arena for the action than the ring.) He’s gone back into the ring to scrape up a few bucks for his wife's abortion. The decision not to manipulate the audience in any way--to let us decide what we make of this man--is admirable. Problem is, he has so little personality that my initial reaction was "not much." Curious, though, how draining the film of all drama does not lead to a drab experience: in the days that followed, I kept thinking about the film. Ostrochovský has real style. There are some startling images, from the unforgiving scale of the Carpathian mountains to the intimacy of the human face. He uses a distorted lens to put us right up in the “goat’s” almost fun-house mug. Draining the picture of all heroism has the odd effect of making this boxer, if not heroic, at least admirable: a loser who won't let nature’s unsmiling bleakness crush him.
★★★½ review by Bruno Rabello on Letterboxd
Misto de ficção e documentário, centrado na figura de um boxeador olímpico decadente, que tenta desesperadamente conseguir dinheiro lutando, mesmo diante de sucessivas derrotas e contra a recomendação médica. O ator principal interpreta a ele próprio, o que traz veracidade ao filme.
★★★★½ review by Spencer Garrison on Letterboxd
In the 2015 film Koza, director Ivan Ostrochovsky follows the troubled Romanian boxer of the film’s title as he struggles to pool together money to support his family. Ostrochovsky uses primarily non-professional actors in the film, with the boxer Peter Baláž playing himself as well as his wife, Miša. Coming from a documentary background, Ostrochovsky’s first dive into ‘fiction’ filmmaking with Koza is a fascinating watch that shows the unique power/potential documentary filmmakers have when crossing that vague line between doc and fiction.
Koza feels like real life. The pacing is slow, each image and frame extended and observational. The scenes unravel. The dialogue, the few times the characters do speak, packs a punch. Ostrochovsky stated in an interview that he initially thought Koza was going to be a documentary, but “as the situations when [he] just could capture particular moments and would have to re-enact them anyway were more and more frequent, [he] decided [he’d] go for a special fiction film.” In this way, Koza is a kind of documentary and fiction hybrid, reflected in the mix between seemingly observational moments with more obviously staged ones (the fairy scene comes to mind). The meshing of the qualities of these different yet very interconnected modes make for a film that feels very honest to the characters and the situations they get themselves into. Not one moment felt exaggerated or separated from the reality of the film, made especially powerful in this case as it uses the main actor’s life as material for most of it, including the money issues that carry the plot forward.
Koza gives us a snapshot of the life of a struggling boxer and not for one moment do we take any of it as ‘made up’. It feels real and natural. If documentary filmmakers are making honest fiction films like this, I’d love to see more. Seriously, please recommend some to me.
★★★★ review by Diogo Vale on Letterboxd
Minimalist Slovakian drama with black comedy inclinations.
The much discussed hybrid documentary/fiction nature of the film further amplifies the story's appeal beyond the actors' low-key performances and the inspired visuals.
★★★★½ review by Gonçalo Loleiro on Letterboxd
4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days + belarmino @ Slovakia.
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