Once upon a Time in Czechoslovakia | Offscreen
Once upon a time... there was a country that ceased to exist after a Velvet Revolution, a tiny country of two nations brought together in a socialist utopia, a country with a tradition in film adaptations of folk stories, legends and fairy tales. Initially in the work of animation masters like Jirí Trnka and Karl Zeman, later in live-action films, princesses and fantasy characters were brought to the screen. In “Three Nuts for Cinderella” and “The Cat Who Wore Sunglasses” the fairy tale tradition was given a communist or contemporary makeover. Darker aspects of the fantastic can be found in “The Golden Fern” or the coming-of-age lyricism of “Valerie and Her Week of Wonders”. “Marketa Lazarova” and “Witches' Hammer” on the other hand, are historical parables on authority and terror. Despite an often intriguing ambiguity, these films were not without subtext, especially those produced around the pivotal Prague Spring of 1968. Due to their subliminal critique on the authoritarian government, surrealistic allegories like “Case for a Rookie Hangman” or “Party and the Guests” can be considered as fairy tales for adults.
In collaboration with the Centre tchèque de Bruxelles and the NFA (Národní Filmový Archiv)
Beauty and the Beast
Beauty, as popular wisdom will have it, is in the eye of the beholder. But here, that beholder is a mythical monster that forbids its prized possession to return its gaze. Dreamlike and ethereal adaptation that draws out the uncanny qualities of the original story and pities the antihero his inner turmoil.
The horrifying professional cremator in Herz's masterpiece would make a great Halloween character, and he'd be a knock-out. This baffling and darkly humoristic tale of a deranged institutional figure is made up in dizzy strokes of expressionist folly and is as disturbing as it is aesthetically gratifying.
The Little Mermaid
The pain and beauty of unrequited love marvellously combine in one of the most breathtaking and obscure examples of the Czech fairytale cinema, where staggering art and costume design vie with an equally brilliant electronic score. A pearl from the deep indeed.
The Ninth Heart
'A fanciful rediscovery' is one way of putting it. A key fairytale in the oeuvre of The Dark Baron. Herz riffs on the concept of 'seeing anew with childlike wonder' in a concoction that features a pouty-lipped princess, a brave vagrant, a maleficent evildoer and nine children's hearts!
Three Nuts for Cinderella
A princess is no damsel in distress, not necessarily. Is there a fairytale character better suited to a narrative of female empowerment than Cinderella, working her way up from the dust she was raised in? This loveable rewriting thrills with a tomboy-heroine who is very much in charge of her happy ending.
The Cat Who Wore Sunglasses
The circus comes to town in this vibrant and deliciously jazzy treat with Technicolor inserts! National comedy icon Jan Werich leads the dance as the magician stirring up trouble in a small, stuck-up village. Following in tow are a beautiful trapeze artist and her mischievous cat with a very special gift...
The blackest of black, the ultimate shade of noir, the high priestess of Gothic supreme: veils, coffins and the petrifying eyelashes of its leading ladies included. No label quite sums up the baroque magnificence of "Morgiana". Ensnares fully with a story of madness, betrayal and hallucination-inducing poison.
A businessman can't seem to find his way home when he wanders into a serpentine shopping mall where time has stopped. The bizarre characters he meets have no intention of helping him either. Herz deals a hand of massive psychosexual terror and claims this film as his second-favourite after "The Cremator".
The Golden Fern
Based on an 'indigenous' fairytale, this is an exquisitely dark and brooding piece of folklore by one of the great directors of the Czech New Wave. The titular fern plays a pivotal role in a young man's life whose ambition leads him to a crossroads between two very different women, and two competing destinies.
The Party and the Guests
Buñuel's surrealist legacy lives on in the utterly 'magical' urban environment of Prague, but while the scathing jokery of our party does bear resemblance to that of the master, it is a sharp-toothed beast of its own. Top entry in the 'subversion-through-comedy' category of the Eastern Bloc.
Case for a Rookie Hangman
How can a man explain he is not a rabbit when he’s got no proof to the contrary? Taking the question to absurd heights in a freewheeling spin on ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, Jurácek presses the sore spots of bureaucracy in the guise of a mesmerizingly surreal tale that blends nostalgia with political commentary.
Toys in the Attic
An old suitcase in a dusty attic is the home of an eclectic collection of toys. When the beautiful doll Buttercup is abducted, her friends organise a search party and go on an adventure that’s filled with danger and intrigue. A stop motion gem that is bound to captivate the minds of both young and old.
Krysar - The Pied Piper
Barta gives a dark twist to the classic folktale of ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’: a corrupt and materialistic city distorted into an expressionistic tableau populated by cubist characters. This one-of-a-kind stop motion fairy tale adaptation is hailed as one of the masterpieces of puppet animation.
The chaos and anarchy of the dark Middle Ages were seldom as strikingly rendered to the screen as in this cinematographic masterpiece on the struggle between two rival clans. Often cited as the best Czech film ever made, grab the chance to see this mystic, hallucinatory classic on the big screen.
Masterclass Jiri Barta
Jirí Barta will give a masterclass (in English) for film students and professionals.
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