Husband (senior ministry official) and wife find their house is riddled with listening devices put there by his own ministry. A harrowing night follows (reminiscent of 'Who's Afraid Of ... See full summary »
Oldrich "Fajolo" Fajták (Marián Bielik), a student who directs quasi-existentialist verbal abuse at his girlfriend Bela Blazejová (Jana Beláková), takes off to a formally volunteer summer work camp at a farm where he meets her grandfather.
A factory manager in rural Czechoslovakia bargains with the army to send men to the area, to boost the morale of his young female workers, deprived of male company since the local boys have... See full summary »
A grim portrayal of the shift from Paganism to Christianity in medieval Czechoslovakia - as a young virgin promised to God is kidnapped and raped by a marauder who her religious father seeks to kill in return.
Jan Kadar plays a Czech partisan fighter in the waning days of the war. Just as peace is declared, Kadar is shot in the spine and sent to the hospital emergency ward. As he fades in and out... See full summary »
Diamonds in the night is the tense, brutal story of two Jewish boys who escape from a train transporting them from one concentration camp to another. Ultimately, they are hunted down by a ... See full summary »
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... See full summary »
Slovakia during WW2. Tono lives a poor life, but the authorities offer him to take over the Jewish widow Lautman's little shop for sewing material. She is old and confused and thinks that he is only looking for employment and hires him. The odd couple begin to like each other. But some time later the authorities decide that the Jews must leave the city. What should he do with the old lady?Written by
Objective aethetics can sometimes require background information in order to properly judge a piece of art. In the case of this film, it is essential to realize that the film was made under heavy communist censorship. Thus we have plenty of anti-fascist rhetoric as well as the heroic rebel character who abound in Marxist cinema. Yet behind this facade is a devastating critique of the ideology of terror which is the foundation of not only fascism, but the communism of 1960's Eastern Europe.
There's a whole tradition of political film forced to obscure themes enough to slide them past superficial censors and into the minds of a sometimes discerning audience. It can be done by simply universalizing the themes and parallelling the setting with something the audience could recognize. But Chaplin had explored a different method with The Great Dictator, by finding the similarities between two seemingly opposite figures. Through his critique of Hitler, he took on American pomposity and brutality. It is a particularly effective method as it allows the target no way out, turning its own accusations against itself.
Much has been said about the comedy and tragedy's coexistence in this film, and it is indeed an important facet. The simple reason being that life is both funny and tragic, thus to universalize the themes so that any person can be in the Brtko's place, it is imperative to represent both spheres of life.
But the theme is not limited to a broad contemplation on life in the universal sense. There is a much more devestating critique of all totalitarian ideologies. Brtko begins with a simple and, one could argue, natural sense of survival. He is pushed into greed by his wife, and is then pushed into desperation by the his state-sanctioned duty. He finally arrives into a complete state of terror caused by the irrationality of the events around him, and heightened by his relationship with Mrs. Lautmann. Of course, this kind of degradation could happen just as easily under a communist regime as in the days of the Nazis, and this was what the censors missed and the Academy Awards loved.
Few films have the social significance of this one. Not only for its powerful message, but the fact that it is a glimpse into a world we know little about.
5 out of 5 - Essential
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