Posts Tagged ‘Czech Arthouse’

Ecstasy | Estasi (1932) Made in Prague Film Festival 2021

Dir.: Gustav Machaty; Cast: Hedy Kiesler-Lamarr, Aribert Moog, Zvonimir Rogoz, Leopold Kramer; Czechoslovakia 1932, 90 min.

Czech director/co-writer Gustav Machaty (1901-1963) paints a portrait of passionate love and jealousy, set in and around Prague in the early 1930s and based on the novel by Robert Horky.

A mixture of sound and silent film, Ecstasy would be remembered for its nude scenes rather than its cinematographic value or its bold feminist stance. Hedy Kiesler was the star turn – she would soar to the Hollywood firmament as Hedy Lamarr.

The drama opens as newly-wed couple Ewa (Kiesler) and the much older Emile (Rogoz) arrive home.  Emile fumbles with his keys, desperate for a night-cup. Pricking his finger while trying to help Ewa take off her necklace, his mood worsens and he reaches for the newspaper, ignoring his beautiful bride. Ewa leaves him and returns to the estate of her father (Kramer) where she skinny-dips in the lake, her horse running off with her clothes. Meanwhile Adam (Moog), a young engineer, working on the railway-line, catches the horse and returns her clothes in an encounter that leads to a torrid night of sex and the first female orgasm on screen: Ewa’s eyes are closed, her lips parted, whilst another shot shows her limp wrist, symbolically dropping the necklace with its pearls rattling to the floor. 

Emile realises the error of his ways and tries to make amends – but Ewa rejects him  – he then comes across Adam and gives him a lift in his car unaware to the tryst. But when he sees the necklace in Adam’s hands, Emile is distraught and commits suicide the same evening in a hotel where the couple are dancing. Ewa is shocked and abandons Adam. The finale pictures her happily cuddling a new-born baby.

Ewa’s search for passion is seen as a rightful pursuit, a stance against her selfish  husband. But Adam is neither her saviour nor her downfall. Ewa’s reputation survives intact, Adam comes across as a naïve country boy, fulfilled by his work on the land more than his affair with a woman, and merely the catalyst for Ewa’s emancipation. Ewa is not punished like Madame Bovary. She is a self-determining woman who has chosen pleasure above pain.

Produced for the German market, Ecstasy is certainly still very central European in tone, Vienna, Austria, and the old Habsburg Empire are still alive. The lack of dialogue is surprising: Ewa’s scenes with Emile and Adam are silent. At a time when men had the last word, Ewa proves that actions speak louder than words. But when she does speak – in the scene with her father – Ewa is in charge, telling him to lie to her ex-husband when the he phones. Her father asks: “Why do I have to lie?”, Ewa answering “So I have my peace”. 

The film premiered in Prague in January 1933, with Kiesler storming out of the theatre, feeling betrayed by the director and producer, who had promised that the nude scenes would be shot from far away, so that nobody would recognise her. In Germany, the feature was cut from the original length of 95 minutes to a mere 82. In the USA, Ecstasy was forbidden until 1940, when it was show in an even more edited version than in Germany. France was the only place where the original version is still shown even today.

Later, Kiesler’s husband, the arms dealer Fritz Mandle, would try to buy up all the copies of the film but without the negative, his efforts would be in vain – as were his attempts to hold on to his wife.

Shot by DoP Jan Stallich in intimate close-ups, the wider screen scenes at the railway, are edited by Antonin Zelenka in the way of the Russian montage features. Ecstasy would be Machaty’s last film in his homeland. He went to work in Germany and Italy, before returning to Hollywood, where he had learned his trade from Griffith and Von Sternberg in the 1920s. His film noir Jealousy (1945) is one of the gems of the genre. Machaty moved to Germany in 1951, teaching at the Munich Film School and directing his last feature Suchkind 312 in 1955. AS

Ecstasy with live overture by Anna Vöröšová / Sun 7 Nov, 3 pm



Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2018 | Preview

New films from RADU JUDE, ANA KATZ and SÉBASTIEN PILOTE headline the main competition at the 53rd edition of the Czech Republic’s premier festival that unspools in the spa town of Karlovy Vary from 29 June until 7 July 2018.

The ten world and two international premieres in this year’s official competition include Jude’s follow-up to his sombre genocide documentary Dead Nation (2107). I Do Not Care If We Go Down In History As Barbarians is another exploration of the timely topic of national identity and culture. Argentinian filmmaker Ana Katz’s will present her bittersweet family drama  Sueño Florianópolis. The Fireflies Are Gone, is the story of a rebellious yet charismatic teenager, directed by Canadian filmmaker Sébastien Pilote. The line-up also features Russian filmmaker Ivan Tverdovsky’s poetic new film Jumpman and Peter Brunner’s dark Austrian-American drama To the Night, starring Caleb Landry Jones, while Israeli director Joseph Madmony will be at KVIFF with a subtly moving drama Redemption, that explores a fathers fight to save his daughter and his own musical dream. co-directed by cinematographer Boaz Y. Yako

Other titles competing for the festival’s Crystal Globe include: Miriam Lies (Natlia Cabral, Oriol Estrada, Dominican Republic/Spain); Brothers (Omur Atay, Turkey); and History of Love (Sonja Prosenc, Slovenia.)

The  East of the West competition strand  features the latest from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia — and opens with Crystal Swan, a debut from Belarusian filmmaker Darya Zhuk in a selection from 12 female directors, including Iranian director Nima Eghlima’s social drama Amir and Elizaveta Stishova’s touching family drama Suleiman Mountain, that debuted at last year’s PYIFF.

In the Documentary strand, there is Putin’s Witness an exciting look behind the Kremlin’s Iron Curtain exposing new archive footage, from exiled Russian director Vitaly Mansky, Bridges of Time, a poetic essay from Lithuanian directors Kristine Briede and Audrius Stonys and filmmaker Marouan Omara explores the abandoned luxury Egyptian resort Sharm El Sheikh: Dream Away. Meanwhile, Andrew Bujalski’s Support the Girls,  looks at the  American middle class during a day in a traditional U.S. sports bar and plays out of competition.


I Do Not Care If We Go Down In History As Barbarians | Radu Jude | WP | 140′

Radu Jude’s follow up to his sombre study of wartime genocide (Dead Nation) is a more upbeat but potent feature that follows a young Romanian artist’s meticulous plans to reconstruct an historical event from 1941, when the Romanian Army carried out ethnic cleansing on the Eastern Front.

Panic Attack |Paweł Maślona | Poland | IP | 100′ 

Paweł Maślona’s debut is a dark comedy that looks at the cinematic potential of the emotional phenomenon known as the ‘panic attack’ seen through the experiences of a group of Poles in contemporary Warsaw.

The Fireflies are Gone | Sébastien Pilote | Canada | 96′ | WP

The sleepy town where Léo lives is a dead end, as far as her hopes and dreams are concerned. but happiness and self realisation beckons once she escapes her mother’s influence in this stylistically precise, pop-impressionistic film about a girl’s quest to find out who she really is. Featuring the captivating performance by Karelle Tremblay.

Domestique/ Director: Adam Sedlák | Czech Rep, Slovak Rep | 116′ WP

Adam Sedlák’s claustrophobic black and white drama explores our desire to succeed both professionally and personally in this grim domestic portrait of a top national cyclist and obsessional bicycle racer.


Geula/Redemption | Joseph Madmony\Boaz Yehonatan Yaakov Israel, 2018, 100′, WP

A deeply religious Jewish widower combines his love of music with his desperate bid to save his daughter in this gently moving drama from Israeli duo, Madmony and Yaakov.


Brothers /Kardeşler |  Ömür Atay | Turkey, Germany, Bulgaria, 2017, 103′  | WP

Directed with an assured hand, this intimate debut explores guilt and punishment in a close family set-up, showing how difficult it is to choose between moral rectitude, family, and tradition.

Miriam Lies\ Miriam miente| Oriol Estrada, Natalia Cabral |  90′ | WP

Shy girl Miriam is excited about her 15th birthday and wants to invite her online boyfriend to the celebrations, but the anticipated blind date only complicates things in this delicately drawn teenage portrait of growing up, competitiveness, and confusion.

Podbrosy / Jumpman / Skokan
Director: Ivan I. Tverdovskiy
Russia, 2018, 86 min, International premiere

Young Oksana put Denis in an orphanage, unable to cope with a new baby, but sixteen years later she wants to make amends for her neglect in Ivan Tverdovskiy’s follow-up to his stunning drama Zoology.

Sueño Florianópolis | Ana Katz | Argentina, Brazil, France, 2018, 103\, WP

Lucrecia, Pedro, and their teenage kids Julian and Florencia set out from Buenos Aires one sweltering day to the Brazilian summer resort of Florianópolis. Renowned Argentinian director Ana Katz draws upon gentle humor and light melancholy to relate a tale of first love, past lovers, fateful encounters, and fleeting joys.

To the Night | Peter Brunner | Austria, USA, 2018, 102 min, WP

As a child Norman survived a fire that killed the rest of his family. Married with a child, he is still struggling with the resulting trauma, in this atmospheric and visually spectacular study of troubled adulthood, portrayed impressively by Caleb Landry Jones.


Winter Flies | Všechno bude | Olmo Omerzu | 85′, World premiere

Capturing the mischievous essence of boyhood, this Slovenian bromance sees two eccentric souls Mára and Heduš set out into the frozen wastes in search of adventure.


History of Love | Sonja Prosenc | Slovenia, Italy, Norway, 2018, 105′ |  WP

In her freewheeling and gently poetic third feature, Sonja Prosenc explores family ties and bereavement through the story of  seventeen-year-old Ivan.



The Best Thing You Can Do with Your Life |  Zita Erffa | Ger/mex 93′

Erffa examines why her brother entered a conservative Roman Catholic order, severing all ties with the outside world in this fresh, inquiring documentary that works both as a self-healing document and a study of family estrangement.

Cielo | Alison McAlpine | Canada, Chile, 2017, 78′

After every scorching day in the Chilean Atacama desert of Atacama the night sky reveals an enigmatic gateway to the universe in this powerful cinematic experience brought to us by Canadian director Alison McAlpine (Second Sight).

Dream Away | Marouan Omara, Johanna Domke Germany, Egypt, | 86 min, WP

Sharm El Sheikh offered a paradise of golden beaches and coral gardens. But the Arab Spring and the confusion of the post revolutionary period robbed both the local workers and holiday makers of this exotic playground in the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. The film offers a melancholy portrait of the resort’s dwindling employees who feverishly dream among the abandoned hotel suites.

In the Stillness of Sounds | Stéphane Manchematin, Serge Steyer | France | 90′

Marc Namblard, looks at the sedative effects of sound in this observational discourse on the tranquillity of the forest that permeates the very heart of man.

Bridges of Time / Mosty času | Director: Audrius Stonys, Kristīne Briede | Lith/Latvia/Est | 80′

Kristīne Briede and Audrius Stonys’s meditative documentary essay portrays the less- remembered generation of cinema poets of the Baltic New Wave. With finesse, they push beyond the barriers of the common historiographic investigation to offer a consummate poetic treatment of the ontology of documentary creation.

A Little Wisdom / Malá moudrostDYuqi Kang
Canada, Nepal, China, 2017, 92 min, European premiere

An isolated Buddhist monastery in southern Nepal not only provides refuge for monks, but also for orphans up to the age of sixteen. Far removed from civilisation, the boys learn about strict discipline and order yet, like all children, they hanker after adventure. An observational documentary which captures both the routine of the passing days and the vagaries of boyhood.

Breaking News / Mimořádná zpráva: Tomáš Bojar | Czech Republic | 75′, World premiere

A carefully composed observation of two newsrooms which, in March 2017, tried to cover the Czech president’s decision whether or not to run for re-election. Two teams of reporters, one extraordinary event, and two takes on one“objective” piece of news.

Putin’s Witnesses / Vitaly Mansky | Latvia, Switzerland, Czech Republic, 2018, 102 min, World premiere

On December 31, 1999 Vladimir Putin became president of Russia and renowned documentarist Vitaly Mansky draws on witness accounts of the aftermath. He then rounds it off with his own fascinating perspective and longtime experience of a man only separated by a movie camera from the frontline of Russian politics.

The Swing / Cyril Aris | Lebanon, 2018, 74 min, World premiere

Viviane and Antoine have lived together for 65 years, and while she still has her strength, he has long been bedridden. And so no one is able or has any desire to tell the weakened old man the distressing news that his beloved daughter has suddenly died. Indeed, the grief might cause his own death… A heavy, lyrical portrait tempered by familial love.

Inside Mosul / V Mosulu | Jana Andert | Czech Republic | 70 min, World premiere

A shock therapy of news coverage from the front line. Documentarist Jana Andert spent eight months with an elite Iraqi Army unit in the battle for Mosul, occupied by Islamic State fighters from 2014 to June 2017. An unflinching report from a city in ruins, robbed of its soul by one of the worst catastrophes of modern times.

Walden | Daniel Zimmermann | Switzerland, Austria, 2018, 100 min, World premiere

Gentle birdsong filters through dense forest vegetation only to be drowned out by the sudden roar of chainsaws. Thus begins a documentary comprising a mere thirteen 360° panning shots, whose uncompromising formal concept is not an easy watch. But as soon as we align our breathing with the slow rhythm of the shots, we can witness the paradoxical migration of wood from Austrian forests to a secret, far-off destination.

L’Île au trésor / Treasure Island | Guillaume Brac | France, 2018, 97 min, World premiere

The summer season at a recreation centre near Paris is in full swing, so there is no shortage of amusing interludes at the crowded swimming pool. A glimpse into the mindset of the visitors and employees of the extensive park – original French natives and immigrants who come here to relax, for want of a  more exotic holiday destination.


Crystal Swan / Crystal Swan  | Dir: Darya Zhuk | Bel,Germ, US, Russ, 2017, 95 min, WP

This year’s East of the West competition opens with Darya Zhuk’s spirited debut drama set in post Soviet Minsk where a young woman with a law degree dreams of going to the USA to work as a DJ.

53 Wars /53 wojny | Dir: Ewa Bukowska | Pol 2018, 79′ 

Anka is becoming extremely anxious about her war correspondent husband Witek, but where do you draw the line between reality and vivid imagination? An evocative psychological drama adapted from the autobiographical novel by Grażyna Jagielska about experiencing war second-hand: we don’t have to be there for it to have a destructive influence on our lives.

Amir | Dir: Nima Eghlima | Iran, 2018, 106′ | WP

Now in his thirties, Amir is beleaguered by other peoples’ problems, while he tries to keep his own family together. Amir is a timely film about contemporary Iran, about a generation whose private lives are determined more by the rules of society than by their own will.

Bear with Us/Chata na prodej | Dir: Tomáš Pavlíček | Czech Rep, 2018, 77′  WP

A family decides to sell a lovely cottage as none of them has visited it for some time, so they all decide to spend one last day there before the end. This slow-burning comedy is a riff on nostalgia with echoes of a Jaroslav Papoušek screenplay, and takes an agreeably detached view of the Czech phenomenon of weekending in the country.

Moments/Chvilky | Dir: Beata Parkanová | Czech/Slovak Reps, 2018, 95′ WP

This amusing and mature debut explores how explores how a young woman eventually takes control of her life despite her overbearing family.

Glyubokie Reki /Deep Rivers | Dir: Vladimir Bitokov | Russ, 2018, 75′

Under the watchful eye of Aleksandr Sokurov comes another searingly vivid and visually remarkable debut with profound humanistic appeal. Set in a stark landscape, the intense conflict of a family of lumberjacks comes to a head when the youngest returns to take the place of his sick father.

Breathing Into Marble | Dir: Giedrė Beinoriūtė | Lith, Latvia, Croatia, 2018, 97′ 

Lithuanian director Giedrė Beinoriūtė brings us a taut psychological drama debut adapted from the award-winning novel of the same name that sees a well-to-do family under pressure when they adopt a withdrawn little boy from the local orphanage.

Pause / Pauza | Dir: Tonia Mishiali | Greece, Cyprus, 2017, 96 min, World premiere

Elpida is trapped in a loveless marriage to a heartless, despotic man, and to make matters worse, she’s also going through the menopause. Emotional and physical changes affect her perception of reality in this formally mature, muted psychological drama that confront the issues surrounding the position of women in a patriarchal society.

Suleiman Gora / Suleiman Mountain | Director: Elizaveta Stishova
Kyrgyzstan, Russia, 2017, 101′

Drama and comedy collide in this vivid Kyrgyzstani road movie that sees a couple haunted by ghosts of the past who come back to stay, possibly for good.

Via Carpatia |Dir: Klara Kochańska, Kasper Bajon | Poland, 2018, 71 min, WP

Julia and Piotr and his mother decide on an alternative holiday| a trip across the Balkans, to a refugee camp on the Macedonian-Greek border. Student Academy Award holder Klara Kochańska makes her debut with this intimate, cinema verite road movie characterised by subtle performances.

Virágvölgy / Blossom Valley | Dir” László Csuja | Hungary, 2018, 83 min, WP

An punky, brash road movie about young lovers on the run, interwoven with poetic and realistic images. Psychotic Bianka kidnaps a child and dupes the trusting Laci into thinking that it’s his. Together they form an instant family who set off in a caravan, fleeing the law and a bunch of crooks.

Volcano / Vulkán | Dir: Roman Bondarchuk | Ukr,Ger, 2018, 106, WP

One day Lukas, employed as an interpreter for an OSCE mission, becomes lost in the middle of the steppe in southern Ukraine. His journey towards self-recognition andhappiness will be flanked by a series of strange encounters and bizarre situations…Roman Bondarchuk’s novel feature debut is a tragicomedy whose striking visuals aidhim in fleshing out the colorful world of southern Ukraine, a place which still bears unmistakable traces of the distant and not-too-distant past.



Copyright © 2024 Filmuforia