Prague in the early 1950's. Bourgeois elements are being re-educated by working in a scrapyard full of the detritus of industrial society. The volunteer workers comprise a professor of literature, a public prosecutor, a dairyman, a saxophonist, a barber, and a young cook. Also working in the yard are a number of female prisoners serving a year for trying to defect... A camera crew arrives with potted plants and other props. An idyllic scene is created; the prisoners star briefly in a pro-North Korean newsreel before going back to work... The volunteers are striking because the scrapyard work quotas have risen without consultation. A union rep arrives to persuade them otherwise... The guard for the female prisoners gets married but the gypsy musicians make a mess at his reception. The cook flirts with one of the pretty prisoners and finally proposes... Written by
Set in a scrap metal yard at the great Kladno steelworks, at the time of its making (just as the Prague Spring was being terminated by the Russians) this was seen as a satirical attack on the Communist regime, which got both film and director Jiří Menzel banned for several years (the film was not released until 1990). How such a gentle film could be seen as so subversive now seems incredible nearly 4 decades later.
Sorry, Liehtzu, but it couldn't possibly be better than the sublime "Closely Observed Trains"! Maybe this is because that film is so timeless, whereas "Larks on a String" seems to have dated less well; it is now more of a series of formless sketches of erotically charged comedy, in which the Czech spirit always manages to triumph over oppression and even the "villains" elicit a certain sympathy.
Even so it is a gem of a film, witty, quirky and subtle, in which a bunch of renegade intellectuals, sent literally to the scrapheap, put the world to rights and try to engage with the pretty girls working over the metal mountain.
The DVD available in the Czech Republic (R2) has rather unreliable English subtitles, so much of the biting dialogue is lost in translation; still a wonderful film though.
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