In 1975 Olga Hepnarová was the last woman executed in Czechoslovakia. As with Ruth Ellis, who was the last woman to receive the death penalty in the UK, people are fascinated by female killers. Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to name the last men hanged in Britain whilst Ellis is well-known. In 1973 Hepnarová drove her truck into a group of pedestrians walking on the street, killing eight. I, Olga, directed by Petr Kazda and Tomás Weinreb, tells her story.
Growing up in Prague, Olga Hepnarová (Michalina Olszanska) had a troubled childhood and adolescence. From an abusive home life, an attempted suicide, to an unhappy spell spent in a mental institution, Olga had a touch upbringing. Adulthood brings new-found freedoms and frustrations. Working as a driver, she wrestles with her sexuality and an inability to connect with people. At the age of 22 she finally snaps.
I, Olga is a bleak piece of film-making. Shot in monochrome, there’s little attempt to lighten Hepnarová’s troubled story. The camera lingers, often more suggestive than implicit. The undoubted star is Michalina Olszanska. She plays Olga from the age of 13 until her death. The blurring of timeline an allegory for her continued hell. I, Olga is a morose but compelling look at what can drive people to commit atrocities. It heralds the arrival of a new star.
I, Olga is in cinemas and available to watch on MUBI from Friday.