This movie is based on texts of Bohumil Hrabal, world-known Czech prosaic. It's a story (in a form of a mosaic of short episodes and pictures) about the sadness and happiness of inhabitants... See full summary »
Comedy about the people who inhabit a small town. For years the overbearing Pavek has endured Otik, the "town idiot," sharing his meals and the front seat of their dump truck. But Otik is ... See full summary »
Middle-aged Antonin and his friends, the major, now retired, and the canon, are in the river, swimming and philosophizing. Then it starts to rain. It just seems to be that sort of summer. ... See full summary »
A small group of adult bourgeois friends are on a day outing in the country, that outing which includes having a picnic. While they are going for a walk after the picnic, they encounter a ... See full summary »
In the 1950's, Ludvik Jahn was expelled from the Communist Party and the University by his fellow students, because of a politically incorrect note he sent to his girlfriend. Fifteen years ... See full summary »
In the aftermath of World War II, a former Czech soldier takes charge of a manor formerly owned by a German family. He falls in love with the daughter, who is now a maid, and is forced to ... See full summary »
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 »
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
It's 50 years almost day-to-day since the Red Army and the armies of several "fraternal" states invaded the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic and put an end to the experiment of socialism with a human face that had been tried by Alexander Dubcek and the Czechoslovak Communist leadership. I do not know whether it is a coincidence or not, but the timing was excellent for the screening and viewing of Jiri Mendel's 1969 film 'Skrivánci na niti' ('Larks on a String') as part of the Czech film festival in Israel, a film that could not meet with its audience for 20 years, as it was banned by the communist censorship until the fall of the regime.
For the audience in my native Romania who lived during communism, Mendel's film will not only show themes and situations similar to those they lived, but its fate will remind the one of the film 'Reconstituirea' ('Reconstitution') made in the same period in Romania by Lucian Pintilie: The same attitude of protest and resistance, the same subtle symbolism, the same sympathetic approach to the characters, and ultimately a similar fate - the film was banned by censorship and kept 'on the shelves' for twenty years. The action in 'Skrivánci na niti' is placed in time in the early 1950s when the Communist dictatorship began to consolidate and 'class enemies' were sent to forced labor or prison for the guilt of having belonged to the 'bourgeois classes' or for the crime of trying to escape from the 'socialist paradise'. The setting is symbolic - a plant where industrial waste is brought to be transformed into useful objects, and the people who robot are the human waste that needs to be re-educated to become the 'new type of human beings'. Those who turn out to be non-educated disappear, arrested by the political police and forced into the car that will lead them to more severe prison or labor camps, the next stage of repression.
Unlike Lucian Pintilie's Romanian film, which was an exception, Jiri Mendel's creation was part of a more developed cinema school, with creators like Milos Forman, Vera Chytilová or Mendel, who managed to create several remarkable films demonstrating that - within the limits of the communist censorship tolerance - making quality films was possible even behind the Iron Curtain. The look that Mendel throws back in those years of relative hope for Eastern Europe toward the beginning of the communist era is not characterized by anger or hatred. The characters of the period are presented in their humanity, even the prison guardians or the bureaucrats of the regime are surprised in situations that make them ridiculous rather than abject. Criticism is especially directed against the system, with all its power to oppress and is absurdity worthy of Kafka's country. Visual power and acting are remarkable. Jiri Mendel's film made half-century ago, has successfully passed the exam of time.
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