A Two Hearted Tale Image

A Two Hearted Tale

By Ethan Padgett | June 25, 2024

A Two Hearted Tale is a rustic documentary that brings viewers into Kalamazoo, Michigan, as we learn the origins of Ladislav Hanka’s distinct art style and Bell’s Beer, a cult craft beer brand. It is a film that celebrates the individual while also delving into the complexities of creating a boutique brand.

Rory K. McHarg and Brett Miller’s film follows Ladislav Hanka and his connection to Bell’s Beer. Hanka, the son of Czechoslovakian immigrants, describes his career as an artist and connection with fishing. He got into fishing through his scientist father’s interest in the hobby. Simultaneously, Hanka became obsessed with a book by John Voelker, a retired Supreme Court Justice and author of Anatomy of A Murder, called Trout Madness. He eventually met Voelker and drew a sketch of him that would later be used on the label of a Bell’s Beer bottle.

Alongside learning about Hanka’s childhood, we see his intricate art process of copper etching. His artwork for Bell’s Beer consisted of bar patrons at the Rex Café and detailed images of trout. There are wonderful sequences of him out in the Michigan woods, bathed in autumn orange, fishing and tending to his beekeeping. He is a man in tune with nature and captures both people and fish with curiosity.

“…we learn the origins of Ladislav Hanka’s distinct art style and Bell’s Beer, a cult craft beer brand. ”

Larry Bell, who founded Bell’s Beer, is a complicated man. He was a cunning and eccentric businessman who lobbied to get a microbrew license in Michigan. A government representative worked to change the rules, which allowed Bell to create his now iconic beer brand. His connection to Hanka came about because they were both home brewers. He knew Hanka was an artist, so he got his help creating art for the labels. However, there were complications as Bell wanted to use Hanka’s artwork in a more commercial approach. The interweaving of these two men is done in a slice-of-life approach.

A Two Hearted Tale creatively integrates interviews, Hanka’s home movies, animation, and switching between digital and analog films. The use of animation is a wonderful touch as Hanka’s artwork similarly depicts the rough, sketchy look of Steve Barron’s Take On Me music video. All of the interviewees are relatable and do not adhere to the “talking head” formula.

The debate between individual versus commercial art needed more expansion. This is a great topic for a film focusing on an independent brand. It is briefly discussed through the insight of an art professor, Martin Burch. Although it is lightly touched on, the topic does not detract from McHarg and Miller’s excellent filmmaking.

A Two Hearted Tale is highly recommended and will inspire you to create your own individual brand. Cheers to individuality, creativity, and American ingenuity!

A Two Hearted Tale (2023)

Directed: Rory K. McHarg, Bret Miller


Starring: Ladislav Hanka, Jana Hanka, Steve ‘Bert’ Berthel, Bruce Soderstrom, Martin C. Burch, Kevin Romeo, Roy Deal, etc.

Movie score: 9/10

A Two Hearted Tale Image

"…cheers to individuality, creativity, and American ingenuity!"

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