top of page


The Chambermaid - BFI Flare

average rating is 3 out of 5


Amber Jackson


Posted on:

Mar 22, 2023

Film Reviews
The Chambermaid - BFI Flare
Directed by:
Mariana Cengel-Solcanská
Written by:
Mariana Cengel-Solcanská and Hana Lasicová
Dana Droppová, Radka Caldová, Vica Kerekes

The Chambermaid is a Slovakian period drama film that captures a turbulent period of disruption around The First World War and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Europe during this time. In the midst of all this, protagonist Anke travels from a small Slovak town to Prague to be a maid in a wealthy noble family. She meets Resi, the family’s daughter, who was raised to marry well. Being the same age, but at polar opposite ends of the social class ladder, the two women find solace in each other and slowly grow very close. Their story is equal parts unconventional and unsettling as a new era dawns in Europe. Whilst there are more abstract moments, this is an obviously fiery tragedy wrapped up in a queer love story.


This film feels like Portrait of a Lady on Fire meets The Handmaiden and is fascinating to watch as a result. It considers an Eastern European perspective to a major historical war, as well as massive citizen disruption, dispersal and the search for a true home. Anke must learn how to work as a maid and the viewer is privy to the struggles of a class system working against her, as well as the societal trials that Resi encounters as a wealthy woman intended for marriage. At first, Resi is cruel and conniving towards Anke, with both actresses having great chemistry as two women who are unable to avoid each other. Quickly, they develop a close and complex relationship which, although it is unclear why they begin to like each other, is still captivating nonetheless.


Director Mariana Cengel-Solcanská does not allow this film to shy away from any brutal reality. This is a film about the lived experiences of all women and the pain, heartache, hardship and cruelty that they endure, often under the control of men. Both Anke and Resi are forced to function within a male-dominated backdrop of war where their choices are not always their own. What stands out in their story is its total honesty, as the women seek to take ownership of their own lives. In the midst of much emotional distress and discomfort, the two women cannot keep away from each other.


This film does well to portray the chaos of a large house and all those within it when Czechoslovakia was emerging as a new country. From gossiping maids, to the extravagant lifestyle of the Austrian upper classes, each character portrayed shows a completely different side to the story with exaggerated performances and actions. What remains at the heart of this narrative are both Anke and Resi as they seek to find solutions wherever they can.


The directorial decisions to have both candid camera shots and beautiful depictions of the Slovakian countryside and cityscape of Prague worked as great contrasts on screen. Every shot is deliberately intended to incite reaction from viewers and remind them not only of the cold realities of society during this time, but also the desire for a peace. These hard-hitting themes also included how veterans with deformities were treated during and after The First World War, with these scenes forcing audiences to consider the anguish and confusion felt during this time. Cengel-Solcanská’s film is designed to consider these issues through the perspective of the women who lived through them and takes the viewer on a journey that conveys both destruction and despair.


The Chambermaid portrays a confusing, yet compelling, lesbian relationship at the height of a brutal war. Both actresses Radka Caldová and Dana Droppová are fantastic on screen as they each represent a dying empire and hope for the future of Europe, respectively. Desperately sad and emotive, this is an engaging film that, whilst it may have unfavoured moments, is still worth watching.

About the Film Critic
Amber Jackson
Amber Jackson
Film Festival, World Cinema, LGBTQ+
bottom of page