Edinburgh Festival: Atomic irony

Film: Buttoners Filmhouse
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The Independent Culture
AS THE 20th century draws to a close, Petr Zelenka's blackly comic Buttoners offers a delightfully eccentric meditation on chance and coincidence.

Combining cinema verite with sci-fi, and tragedy with black comedy, Zelenka creates a slightly surreal universe in which the most significant events of the century and the trivia of everyday existence are connected in an oblique chain of cause and effect.

The film's six, interlocking stories open in the Japanese town of Kokura in 1945, where a group of people are bemoaning the torrential rain, little knowing that thanks to the heavy clouds in the sky above them, the pilots of Enola Gay and their deadly load are changing course for Hiroshima.

Jumping forward exactly 50 years after the bomb to August 6, 1995, Zelenka trawls the night-time streets and apartments of Prague, describing the lives of young lovers, adulterous wives, control-freak psychiatrists and guilty ghosts. Whether spitting at trains, sending freeze-dried sperm to the moon or compulsively wrenching the buttons from upholstery with dentures clamped between their buttocks, these richly fallible characters all struggle to cope with their own personal destinies, rarely glimpsing the larger pattern into which their individual lives fall.

Zelenka's ironically omniscient narrative at times forces connections, but there's enough humour and imagination to buttonhole the most sceptical viewer.

Showing at the Filmhouse (0131-228 2688) tomorrow at 10.30pm and Monday 24 August at 8 pm