I took a punt on this having heard of neither the film, nor the director, nor indeed the novel it is based upon, or the writer herself. Short, powerful, and broken into three parts that shift between two periods of time, it is that rare thing, a realist piece plain and simple, with none of the modifiers that trouble that term from time to time. The social realism of a Ken Loach, for example, may not be so oxymoronic as the socialist realism beginning to glut the cinemas in the Stalinist lands of the period on display here, but it is forced nonetheless, as would be immediately evident if the few short mentions of collective farming in Smuteční slavnost were compared to similar scenes in Land and Freedom or The Wind that Shakes the Barley. Here, the sparse dialogue appears at no point to serve any other purpose than carrying what the viewer feels to be these people's real intentions; and people, not characters or actors, they remain throughout. And who are these people? An admirably mulish widow, a craven priest, a handful of party functionaries, a crowd of farmers, a crowd of mourners, a handful of musicians, and one man who we see at first moribund, dead, and then vigorous with, though it may take a different expression, the same judicious defiance as his wife. They knew what they were doing when they banned it and since I walked out of the cinema less willing than ever to be pushed around or told what to think, I would say it has lost none of its force.
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