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 »
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 »
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 »
Towards the end of 1942 a young prisoner Maruska (Magda Vásáryová) awaits in her cell in prison in Breslau (after war Polish Wroclaw) her execution. After death sentence it was ninety nine ... See full summary »
Set against the backdrop of a repressed Czechoslovakia, five non-related vignettes are presented, each showcasing the need and want for human connection. In "Mr. Baltazar's Death", a middle... 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 »
Engineer Jan Sebek (Jan Kacer) is undergoing treatment in a mental home after his unsuccessful attempt to commit suicide. His therapist, via discussions both with the patient and with ... 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 »
TV mechanic Slávek (Josef Abrhám) takes his wife Ivana (Eva Límanová) to the maternity hospital. From the moment they say goodbye, the couple can't stop thinking about each other. Their ... 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 »
Inspired by fairy-tales such as Alice in Wonderland and Little Red-Riding Hood, "Valerie and her Week of Wonders" is a surreal tale in which love, fear, sex and religion merge into one fantastic world.
One of the most important images of the Czech New Wave 60s, which was ranked among the top ten domestic films of all time. Feature debut screenwriter and director Ivan Passer is currently ... 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 later, he tries to get his revenge by seducing Helena, the wife of one of his accusers.Written by
THE JOKE begins as a reproof of an inequitable polity but ends up in close proximity of a pessimistic take on an individual's ingrown corruption
A vehement indictment of Czech's Communist Party cropping up in the aftermath of Prague Spring and the Warsaw Pact invasion, THE JOKE is the politically engagé Jaromil Jires' sophomore feature, adapted from Milan Kundera's novel and banned immediately after its release, it has been hailed as the last keystone of Czech New Wave movement. Nevertheless, viewed as an independent art piece shorn of its erstwhile political context, it still can hold courts in terms of Jires' nifty visual and editing modality, but at the same time, is severely undermined by several unsavory blemishes, not least its blinkered misogynous treatment.
In 1968, a middle-aged scientist Ludvik Jahn (Somr) returns to Prague after almost two decades and gestates a vengeance to his former college schoolmates, who have expelled him from both the college and party due to a facetious "Long Live Trotsky" postcard he sends to his sweetheart Marie (Obermaierová) to cheer her up. The joke recoils badly and Ludvik is sent to "re-education" in the military where sadistic corporeal punishment is subject to those political dissenters. In the face of the film's 20-year-apart past-and-present correlation, Jires adopts an impetuous cross- cutting technique to juxtapose those two time-frames together, often predicating upon the incidents in the present time (a celebration of newborn babies, a music rehearsal of his old band-mates etc.), which evoke Ludvik's memory of tonally diametrical situations, and subjective angle is also craftily applied to give the audience a vantage point of a haphazard-ish narrative.
So, Ludvik's half-baked plan is to seduce Helena (Dítetová) ("Why don't you grow a pair?"), the wife of Pavel (Munzar), who is his former friend and treacherously betrays him in the trial of his "joke". His plan works, to our utter incredulity because Somr's Ludvik is the antithesis of his dashing counterpart in Kundera's source novel, a bald, portly, reticent type, inept in his action and disaffected in his cynical gaze, so, the reason why Helena falls for him so hard is a total myth and very much contrived, loneliness maybe, but as a successful TV anchorwoman, she is not shy of suitors, even younger, prettier ones. It is a plain pathetic male wish-fulfillment in establishing Helena as a desperate erotomaniac albeit Dítetová's willed attempts to extract some compassion out of her poorly devised character arc, and overall, the female characters are either a masochistic cougar, a priggish party devotee, or a candy-floss trophy girlfriend, no wonder Ludvik frankly admits that he prefers whores.
To shame a man by sleeping with his wife, the stratagem itself is petty, malicious and misogynous to a fault, if Jires' intention is to make Ludvik a miserable reprobate, he has it on a silver platter. A trenchant reproof of an inequitable polity or a pessimistic take on an individual's ingrown corruption? THE JOKE begins as the former but ends up in close proximity of the latter, that is a letdown with a capital L.
0 of 0 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this