Czech Republic

  • Datum 16-01-2014
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We rely on moving pictures, perhaps even more so today than ever before. Cinema preserves slices of history and present while recording diverse impulses from our shared consciousness to produce a map of the collective mental landscape.
Czech cinema has been grinding the same old rails for some time now. Every year, there are films produced which refer to the recent past in one way or the other — to relive, revitalize, idolize or repair. One of the most talked about projects was Burning Bush, a television miniseries about an infamous act of self-martyrdom directed by Agnieszka Holland which was later recut into a feature film which was entered as a contender for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (unfortunately, the Academy overruled this entry). Besides being a symbol of the global phenomena of quality TV finally manifesting itself in Czech television craftsmanship, Burning Bush is a monument to the times not yet forsaken which mustn’t be omitted, whilst becoming a part of the collective memory. Heroes have to be found or created in the maze of history, old sins redeemed. The very same position was assumed a year before by the film In the Shadow, declared the best Czech film of 2012, as Burning Bush will likely be for 2013.
These films mostly reflect life during the communist era, which could be perceived as a generational matter for filmmakers as much as for the audience. However, there has been a batch of films which lightheartedly deal with the transition towards democracy. Comedies prove to be working well in evaluating the turnover after the political upheaval. Academy Award-winning director Ji?í Menzel entered the slapstick territory of low-budget comedy while negating opera’s elitism in his lascivious comedy The Don Juans. Elderly opera actors reminiscences on old times become a vehicle for commentary on how highbrow culture fell victim to the cheap alternative, vividly illustrated by the film itself. Yet one cannot overlook a subtle nostalgic sigh. Even during difficult times, people found something to keep them going, somewhere they could enjoy their freedom. Director Alice Nellis demonstrated much the same in Revival, about elder rockers, as did Viktor Tauš in Clownwise, about a troupe of elderly clowns.
2014 won’t be much different, since the distribution plans have already been set out. "About times not long ago when life appeared to be hopeless yet still full of dreams and human joys", is the logline for the soon to be distributed film Tender Waves, ranking amongst lighthearted nostalgia. That line perfectly explains the popularity and the need for this reminiscence genre.

Martin Kudlác is a freelance film critic and journalist based in Slovakia. He is a contributor to Cineuropa and Twitch, among others