Three Heartfelt Czech Movies To Watch During Lockdown
Those interested in the controversial history, culture, and society of the Czech Republic know that the Czech movie industry is one-of-a-kind. But where should you start, once you have seen the most celebrated titles such as “Pelíšky” and “Milada”. Here we recommend three Czech masterpieces you may have missed on your Netflix watch-list, which make perfect viewing for evenings at home. Photo Credit: Barefoot.
Czech Rep., March 28 (BD) – Those interested in the controversial history, culture, and society of the Czech Republic know that the Czech movie industry is one-of-a-kind. Deep social messages, sarcastic resentment of past regimes and twisted humor are some of the most distinctive characteristics of the Czech approach to movie-making. Many of us have probably seen the Christmas classic Cosy Dens (Pelíšky) more than three times already, or the Czech-American biopic Milada, based on the life of Milada Horáková, one of the bravest women in the country’s harrowing 20th century story. Here, we recommend three Czech movies that you may have missed on your Netflix watch-list, which make perfect viewing for evenings at home.
My Sweet Little Village (Vesnicko má stredisková)
Directed by celebrated Czech filmmaker Jiří Menzel, this is a rural story from 1985 about unfortunate things happening to ordinary people. My Sweet Little Village is loyal to the Czech standards of comedy, featuring some delightful characters with their own types of quirkiness. The story is set in a small Bohemian village named Křečovice, not very far from Prague. Leading man Otik (János Bán) with his sweet-foolishness is taken as the ‘imbecile of the village’ by the local community, while he desperately tries to find favor in the eyes of Pavek (Marián Labuda), a respected truck driver and Otik’s clerk. Pavek cannot resist Otik’s foolishness and the audience gets a good laugh at their everyday adventures. The narrative includes a range of sub-plots from the lives of other inhabitants of the village, such as the carefree doctor who constantly wrecks his car because he is admiring the beautiful scenery of the Czech nature, the teenager deeply in love with the town teacher, and a lot of adulterous behavior much-condemned by the village gossipers. Giving wide coverage to the social dramas of its time – the silent search for justice, patriarchal traditions, the huge gap between those in Prague and others – the movie engages you in a series of contradicting feelings. The movie was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1987.
A 1991 film by Jan Svěrák based on a screenplay by his father, the much-loved actor and screenwriter Zdeněk Svěrák, The Elementary School follows the story of primary school boys in the Czech countryside. We witness the life of Eda Souček as World War II ends and the Soviet regime descends. He is much-distracted from school just like his classmates, yet things change as the new teacher Igor replaces the old one. Igor wears a military uniform and introduces a rigorous regime in the classroom. The boys admire Igor at first thanks to his engaging war stories, but later on, Igor’s weakness for young ladies in the village is revealed. The students attempt to protect Igor’s presence at their school, while Eda finds gaps in Igor’s exaggerated military stories, and he takes a step in understanding the world itself through his discoveries. Another movie loyal to the national trend of finding deep messages in the ordinary stories of ordinary people, The Elementary School is a great weekend watch for those also interested in Czech history. The movie was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1992.
Barefoot (Po strništi bos) A 2017 production directed by Jan Svěrák as a prequel to The Primary School, this film jumps back to see Eda (Alois Grec) as a young boy, moving with his family to the countryside as Eda’s father rejects German authority at work. As World War II continues and Czechoslovakia is drawn progressively further under German occupation, Eda’s village and family are influenced by war. At the same time, Eda is fighting his own battles to get used to living in the village. Raised as a mollycoddled child, making new friends is hard for Eda because the local boys in the countryside are much different from his group in Prague. As he tries to build his courage, he meets his uncle who is detested by the majority of Eda’s family, yet Eda builds a friendly relationship with him. This heartfelt movie deserves credit for the professional coverage of heroism, courage, family values, and the innocence of childhood.