The Czechoslovak New Wave is a term used for the early films of 1960s Czech directors Miloš Forman, Vira Chytilová, Ivan Passer, Jaroslav Papoušek, Jirí Menzel,and Slovak directors Ján Kadar and many others. The quality and openness of the films led the genre to be called the Czechoslovak film miracle. The Czechoslovak New Wave was an artistic movement in cinema which evolved out of the earlier Devetsil movement of the thirties. Disgruntled with the communist regime that had taken over in Czechoslovakia in 1948, students of the Film and TV School of The Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (also known as FAMU) became the dissenters of their time. Their objective in making films was “to make the Czech people collectively aware that they were participants in a system of oppression and incompetence which had brutalized them all.” Trademarks of the movement are long unscripted dialogues, dark and absurd humour, and the casting of non-professional actors. The films touched on themes which for earlier film makers in the communist countries had rarely managed to avoid the objections of the censor, such as the misguided youths of Czechoslovak society portrayed in Miloš Forman’s Loves of a Blonde (1965) and Jiri Menzel’s Closely Watched Trains (1966). The Czechoslovak New Wave differed from the French New Wave in that it usually held stronger narratives, and as these directors were the children of a nationalized film industry, they had greater access to studios and state funding. Also being the products of an Iron Curtain country, they tended to present films taken from Czech literature. At the Fourth Congress of the Czechoslovak Writers Union in 1967, Milan Kundera himself described this wave of national cinema as an important part of the history of Czechoslovak literature. Forman’s The Firemen’s Ball (1967), another major film of the era, remains a cult film more than four decades after its release. As Alexander Dubcek came to power over the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia with plans to present “socialism with a human face” through reform and liberalization (a brief period known as the Prague Spring), the Soviet Union and their Warsaw Pact allies invaded to snuff out reform. The movement came to an abrupt end and Miloš Forman and Jan Nemec fled the country, while those who remained faced censorship of their work.
During the late 1960’s a sudden wave of Czechoslovakian films suddenly burst into the West, catching many film-goers off-guard. Most of the films were very small in scale, and its stories focused mostly on ordinary, regular people, who were regarded with a tender and sweet human affection. These type of films were completely different in […]