Výročia osobností: Jiří Menzel

Február 2018: Ostře sledované vlaky, Upír z Feratu

Režisér a scenárista Jiří Menzel (*23. 2. 1938) patrí bezpochyby medzi najvýznamnejšie osobnosti českej kinematografie. Do sveta filmu vstúpil v druhej polovici šesťdesiatych rokov minulého storočia ako jeden z popredných predstaviteľov českej novej vlny. Z tohto obdobia uvedieme vo februári Menzelov dlhometrážny debut Ostře sledované vlaky. Film ocenený Oscarom patrí medzi viaceré Menzelove adaptácie literárnych diel významného českého spisovateľa Bohumila Hrabala. Menzel si našiel spôsob ako hrabalovskú poetiku preniesť na plátno tak, ako to bolo aj v prípade iného významného českého spisovateľa Vladislava Vančuru (napr. Rozmarné léto). Jeho filmy sú charakteristické pábitelskou hravosťou, špecifickým humorom a láskavým pohľadom na životy jeho filmových postáv s ich „malými“ problémami. Menzel bol nielen režisér a scenárista, ale venoval sa rovnako aj herectvu, hrával tak vo svojich filmoch ako aj v dielach svojich režisérskych kolegov. Takto napríklad vo filme Upír z Feratu Juraja Herza stvárnil rolu dr. Mareka.

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Closely Watched Trains

Ostře sledované vlaky; Jiří Menzel, 1966, versions: OR : ces

One of the most cherished Czechoslovak films of the 1960s. Ostře sledované vlaky (1966) was the recipient of the 1968 Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Similarly, this feature-film debut of director Jiří Menzel is also celebrated at home as a milestone of cinema, and as one of the key films of the New Wave. The legendary adaptation of an exuberant, yet delicate 1965 novella by Bohumil Hrabal tells the coming-of-age story of the young and inexperienced Miloš Hrma, serving as a station guard in central Bohemia at the close of the Second World War. Rather than taking an interest in the impending collapse of Nazi Germany, the timid young man focuses his attentions on women – as he seeks to lose his virginity and become a man. The lovely conductor Máša becomes the target of his efforts. Miloš’s colleagues, the station chief and dispatcher, may be opposed in spirit to the Nazi occupation, but given the tough penalties for resistance, choose to focus instead on day-to-day personal affairs. But among the duties of the railway staff is the requirement that they pay special attention to “closely watched trains” carrying armaments to the front. Ultimately, even Miloš ends up faced by a moment in which he has to partake in the “bigger” historical picture. Hrabal’s slender novella appealed to director Menzel for its unorthodox take on the war. As a film, Ostře sledované vlaky serves as a key 1960s step in de-mythologising the issue of the anti-Nazi resistance (hitherto a cornerstone of communist propaganda). Menzel’s simple story benefits considerably from the sensitive black and white cinematography of cameraman Jaromír Šofr. Twenty-three-year-old singer Václav Neckář delivers an exceptional performance as the charming and naive Miloš. Also offering an outstanding performance is Josef Somr, who plays Hubička, a train dispatcher who is the hedonistic lover of telegraphist Zdenička (in a famous scene Hubička imprints her thighs and buttocks with the office’s rubber stamps). The then 27-year-old director Menzel appears in the role of psychiatrist Brabec. The original credits neglected to mention that the role of the chicken thief was played by actor, playwright and dissident Pavel Landovský. Show more

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Vampire of Ferato

Upír z Feratu; Juraj Herz, 1981, versions: OR : ces

Juraj Herz’s filmography is rich with horror stories. But many of the director’s non-horror films also contain elements of fear and terror, for example Spalovač mrtvol (The Cremator, 1968), the romance Morgiana (Morgiana, 1972), the fairytales Deváté srdce (The Ninth Heart, 1978), Panna a netvor (The Virgin and the Monster, 1978) and the drama Pasáž (Passage, 1996). Furthermore, Upír z Feratu (The Vampire of Ferato, 1981) is more of a science-fiction film than a horror, founded around many irrational elements. The story is centred on the Ferat racing car, which runs on human blood. Based on the story Upír po dvaceti letech (A Vampire Twenty Years On) by author Josef Nesvadba (this author has provided the inspiration for many Czechoslovak films), director Herz and screenwriter Jan Fleischer adapted the work into an archetypal drama about the self-destructive nature of human obsession. Such themes have attracted Herz since his short film debut Sběrné surovosti (Cruelties of Life, 1965). The protagonist of The Vampire of Ferato is Mima Veberová, who satiates her love of high-speed driving via her job as an ambulance driver, racing with Doctor Marek to the scenes of countless accidents. But while at a racing rally, and on hire to foreign firm Ferat, Mima is changed by a meeting with an old acquaintance, trainer Kříž, and a former competitor, racer Luisa. While Mima falls under the spell of the winning bloodsucking vehicle, Doctor Marek tries to save her and unveil the nefarious goings-on at Ferat. This stylised film bubbles with a horror-like atmosphere in part thanks to cinematographer Richard Valenta and composer Petr Hapka – the two components fuse perfectly during the film’s racing scenes, and also during Marek’s horrific nightmares. The leading roles go to Jiří Menzel (Marek) and Dagmar Veškrnová (Mima), the latter having been cast by Herz in his previous Holky z porcelánu (Girls from a Porcelain Factory, 1974) and Holka na zabití (A Girl to Be Killed, 1975). Trainer Kříž is played by Petr Čepek, whose expressive acting style was previously in evidence in Herz’s Petrolejové lampy (Oil Lamps, 1971). The director himself has a small cameo in the film as a vampire in a silent film, reminding audiences that the car firm Ferat is a deliberate evocation of the horror classic Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922). Yet the real star of the film is the car itself, designed by Theodor Pištěk (also responsible for the film titles and costume design). The vehicle is an adaptation of the never-produced prototype Škoda Supersport 724. Show more

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