Utz is a beautifully crafted and composed film directed by George Sluizer and based on a 1988 novel by Bruce Chatwin. On one of his many trips abroad, Marius Fischer (Peter Riegert), a New York gallery owner, meets Baron Kaspar Joachim von Utz (Armin Mueller-Stahl). He's an eccentric and aristocratic collector of Meissen porcelain. Over the years, he has put together a priceless collection of over a thousand figurines, which he keeps in a small apartment in Prague.
On a visit to see Utz, Fischer meets his idiosyncratic friend Dr. Orlik (Paul Scofield), a scientist who loves to study the common fly. Both men are instinctive enemies of the gray communist regime. Fischer is also introduced to Marta (Brenda Fricker), Uta's maidservant who often thwarts state eavesdroppers by banging pots and pans in the kitchen. Years ago Utz rescued her from the hands of rural townsfolk who were convinced that she was a witch. Now Marta serves the Baron and can abide almost anything except his interest in opera divas.
Part of the fascination of Utz is these deftly drawn characters who convey the clash between East and West, capitalism and communism, individuality and totalitarianism. However, screenplay writer Hugh Whitemore (84 Charing Cross Road) is even more interested in using this story to explore obsession. We see how Utz derives great pleasure from his porcelain collection. In one candlelight scene, he moves the figurines in a playful drama to the accompaniment of music. These objects enchant him. They also imprison Utz and serve as a wall cutting him off from the larger world of relationships.
The priceless collection also becomes an obsession of Fischer once Utz dies. He travels to Prague hoping to buy the porcelain and sell it for a fortune in the West. But the figurines have mysteriously vanished. The state museum, where the collection was supposed to go, does not have them. And Marta has disappeared.
The surprising finale to this extraordinary film contains an exotic mix of Kafka and Kundera. It will bring you into a confrontation with your own deepest feelings about the life-giving and the life-denying properties of obsession.