Czech Film Review: All My Good Countrymen

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By Lee Robert Adams | Prague Day by day Monitor |

12 August 2020

When individuals find out that I write about Czech films, one of many questions they often ask is: why are so many Czech movies concerning the Communist period?

The example I all the time use is this: I'm from England, and such a large part of our nationwide id is defined by World Warfare II, which lasted six years. Three iconic occasions from the battle - Dunkirk, the Blitz, and the Battle of Britain - are nonetheless touchstones in our collective conscience and influence how we consider ourselves as a individuals. Even seventy-odd years later, nostalgia for the struggle performed an element in the marketing campaign to go away the European Union.

And, in fact, we're nonetheless making profitable films about it.

Czechoslovakia, by comparability, spent over forty years in the clutches of a Communist regime, only to regain independence comparatively just lately. It is little marvel that the period nonetheless exerts such a strong hold on the Czech national psyche and is ingrained so deeply within the nation's culture. Not solely that, but forty years is a very long time, so even films that are not instantly about it nonetheless have life underneath communism very current as background scenery. We will in all probability anticipate Czech cinema to go on exploring those many years of subjugation for many years to return.

Maybe the best movie I've encountered concerning the subject thus far is Vojtěch Jasný's wondrous All My Good Countrymen. Despite clocking in at underneath two hours, it unfolds at the tempo of a very good novel and feels epic in scope. It is a visually and aurally splendid movie that is full of memorable performances and food for thought, a strong ode to the power and resilience of the director's compatriots.

It is also an immensely brave and compassionate piece of cinema. Courageous in the sense that it was released in the yr of the Prague Spring, but does not disguise behind satire or absurdism - it is a frank, straight-up condemnation of the risks of communism; and compassionate within the sense that it treats characters who fell beneath the regime's affect all too simply with tenderness, or even love.

The movie opens in a frivolously comedic register during Might 1945, after the closure of WWII. We're in a small Czech village and church organist Očenáš (Vlastimil Brodský) is presiding over a joyous hymn celebrating the freedom introduced by Pink Military tanks. Out in the fields, two younger boys find leftover weapons from the battle and terrorize the native photographer (Ilja Prachař) with reside rounds. With a putting little bit of modifying, native thief Jořka (Vladimír Menšík) upgrades from a stolen bicycle to a pilfered German motorcycle to a joyridden German employees automotive. Straight-shooting farmer František (Radoslav Brzobohatý) has a slender miss with a landmine whereas tilling his subject, and carries proper on ploughing.

Whereas there are numerous different individuals within the film, these 4 guys are a part of seven central associates, rounded out by good-natured postman Bertin (Pavel Pavlovský) who will meet his finish because of a wierd flip of destiny; tailor Lampa (Václav Babka); and tortured musician Zášinek (Waldemar Matuška), whose Jewish wife was murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz.

Skip forward to 1948 and the early days of Communist rule. Some of these associates have readily signed up as members of the social gathering, desperate to benefit from the perks and the facility. Očenáš the Organist is the ringleader, and his first job is organizing a farmer's collective. They target the city's richest landowner first, driving him out of his residence and divvying up the loot.

Persuading the other farmers to hitch the collective is an extended, sluggish strategy of intimidation, threats and extortion. The townsfolk sit back, issuing their very own counter-threats and even assassinating one of the celebration members. The farmers, led by the noble František, resist signing over to the collective. Nevertheless, the load of the regime grinds them down through the years and one after the other they relent.

The villagers are performed by a big forged of excellent actors, each creating memorable characterisations inside a terrific ensemble. Jasný spent virtually ten years working on the script, which may clarify why there are so many vivid characters in such a well-populated film. These roles feel real and lived in.

That being stated, the primary character is the group itself, and the film exhibits how the pernicious affect of communism poisons it, sets good friend towards pal, and robs individuals of their livelihood and a significant future. The tone darkens because the film progresses, ending on a poignant notice - virtually a wake-up call for the director's real countrymen, one that would not develop into a reality for an additional three many years.

All My Good Countrymen is a rich and sophisticated movie, one that I am positive will reward repeat viewing. While the story is straightforward enough, the themes and characters linger. Jasný has a pure understanding of the rhythms of rural life, where individuals's connection to the land is tangible and runs many centuries deep. His vision is enriched by Jaroslav Kučera's beautiful cinematography, which captures the spirit of each season in lovely rustic hues; and Svatopluk Havelka's marvellous score, which types an virtually symbiotic link with the pictures on display.

As you may anticipate, a movie that took such a direct potshot at the Communist regime was banned "perpetually" by the authorities. Jasný subsequently went into exile, picked up Greatest Director on the 1969 Cannes Film Pageant, and had the final snigger - he and lots of of his wonderful forged and crew lived lengthy enough to see his masterpiece's ultimate notice come to move.

Bold and lyrical, All My Good Countrymen is important viewing for anyone eager about exploring the films of the Czech New Wave, and people who need to discover out extra about life beneath communism.

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All My Good Countrymen is enjoying on Czech Netflix at the time of writing.

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