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Ondrej, a young boy who loves bees and bats, is introduced to his new mother, a woman much younger than his father. He brings her a basketful of flowers which she starts to throw in the air and then gives out a shriek, as she discovers several bats in the bottom of the bowl. In a rage, Ondrej's father picks the boy up and hurls him against the wall. As the boy lays on the ground paralyzed the father promises the Holy Virgin to dedicate the boy to her if she spares his life. Ondrej survives and is raised in a strict Knightly Order, where he is mentored by a devout monk, Armin. But one day, an extraordinary event makes him doubt the Order and remember where he came from. Written by
poco loco, pethr
The Czech movie "Údolí vcel," directed by Frantisek Vlácil, was shown in the U.S. with the title "Valley of the Bees" (1968). The film is set in the Middle Ages, in a time of unrest and ceaseless war or preparations for war.
A young man, Ondrej, (Petr Cepek) is attending the wedding of his father to a much younger woman, Lenora (the famed Czech actor Vera Galatíková). The boy presents flowers to the bride, but underneath the flowers he has placed bats. His father is so furious that he seizes his son, and flings him against a stone wall. The young man is unconscious, and appears dead. His father vows that, if the child is saved, he will dedicate him to a religious life.
The boy does, indeed, survive and enters an order of religious knights, who are sworn to piety and celibacy. At the home of the order, Ondrej is taken under the wing of a somewhat older knight, Armin (Jan Kacer). Armin has an obvious homoerotic attraction towards Ondrej, although it's not clear to me whether there is a mutual attraction.
The rest of the drama plays out when Ondrej decides to return home, which is forbidden. Other knights who have attempted to leave the order have been caught and (literally) thrown to the dogs. Armin follows the younger man, presumably in order to bring him back safely to the order. Events really begin when Ondrej reaches his destination.
Another reviewer has compared this film to Bergman, and I agree. Think "Seventh Seal" with rampant self-flagellation, superstition, and violence. Not an easy or a pleasant movie, but a powerful and memorable one.
We saw the film in the wonderful Gene Siskel Theatre in Chicago. Where else could you see a Czech movie made over 40 years ago? The Siskel Theatre is one of Chicago's cultural treasures.
Like The Seventh Seal, this film will work better on a large screen, but if it's available on DVD, by all means see it. You may or may not like it, but you won't forget it.
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