An excerpt from the booklet essay by Michael Brooke
The film was shot in 1964, entirely on location in Zruč nad Sázavou. Many of the actors were drawn from the local population, and since Zruč had a real-life demographic imbalance comparable with the one described in the script, they had little difficulty grasping the film’s central situation and getting appropriately into character.
The vast majority of the film’s performers were non-professionals, including some familiar from other Czech films. Nineteen-year old Hana Brejchová built a career on the basis of the title role, but it was her screen debut, and she was cast primarily because she was Forman’s former sister-in-law: he’d been married to the actress Jana Brejchová from 1958-62, and had spotted her younger sibling’s screen potential when she was still in her mid-teens. Jan Vostrčil was already a familiar face in Forman’s
films, and would later appear in Ivan Passer’s Intimate Lighting (Intimní osvětlení, 1965) and Frantisek Vlačil’s Adelheid (1969), but he was primarily a professional musician who, when cast in that capacity as one of the brass band conductors in Forman’s There Were No Music (Kdyby ty muziky nebyly, 1963) turned out to have a natural screen presence and a knack for incarnating avuncular but stern authority figures. Milda’s parents were played by, respectively, Miroslav Ondříček’s uncle Josef Šebánek, and
Milada Ježková, cast after Forman, Papoušek and Passer met her on a bus. (Ježková, who dominates the film’s final act, made such an impression with her machine-gun delivery that she also went on to a brief acting career). Of the three hapless soldiers at the dance, only Vacovský is played by a professional (Vladimír Menšík appeared in dozens of films between 1956 and his death in 1988).
The others, Ivan Kheil and Jiří Hrubý, were respectively a dentist and a fur salesman - fifteen years earlier, they’d appeared in an ambitious amateur stage production that Forman had directed.
Although they hadn’t acted since, he remembered them vividly.
The major exception to this general rule was Vladimír Pucholt as Milda, for whom the part had been written. He started out as a child actor in the 1950s, and had already played significant roles in Forman’s If There Were No Music (as the young musician given a humiliating dressing-down by Vostrčil’s conductor) and Black Peter (as Petr’s friend Čenda). However, A Blonde in Love would almost be his last film. Despite being one of the biggest Czech film stars at the time, it wasn’t his first career choice,
but he’d been repeatedly barred from pursuing medical studies as a result of his bourgeois origins thanks to his father being a lawyer in the pre-Communist era. So in 1967, he defected to Britain, and after the director Lindsay Anderson provided him with accommodation, financial support and references, he was able to secure British citizenship and that long-coveted place in medical
school. He subsequently emigrated to Toronto, where he works as a paediatrician to this day, and was the subject of a Czech TV documentary, Martin Slunečko and Miloslav Šmídmajer’s The Three Lives of Vladimír Pucholt (Tři životy Vladimíra Pucholta, 1996). Forman later claimed that Pucholt’s subsequent career demonstrated that, deep down, he was as much of a gifted amateur as everyone else.
Many years later, Forman reflected on the advantages of this method: “It’s very interesting, the difference between a professional actor and a non-professional actor. The non-professional actor is not at all camera-shy. He’s audience-shy, he doesn’t like being watched by people, but the camera is an object: he doesn’t mind to give himself, to strip his soul naked in front of an object. He minds reading in front of live people. Professional actors, it’s the other way round: they love the audience, they are playing to the audiences. The camera is intimidating: the camera doesn’t laugh, the camera doesn’t express enthusiasm for them, they don’t like it very much. So it was very interesting, the mixing of professional and non-professional actors helped both.”
In order to get the best out of this combination, Forman and Miroslav Ondříček (making his feature debut as cinematographer, though they’d worked together on earlier projects) shot the largescale
set-pieces with two cameras, one following the scene’s central character, the other roaming around to catch promising material on the wing. This required his cast to remain in character throughout each take, but it also made them less self-conscious about the camera, as they had no idea when they were ‘on’.
Forman also refused to give his actors a full script, preferring to reel off the gist of each scene before shooting and letting them improvise the dialogue in their own words - ‘50% of the time it was better than what was written on the page, because they were using their own language which corresponded to their personality, the way they talked. And they felt comfortable in it.’ Forman would later describe the trouble-free shoot as ‘some of my sunniest days in the movie business’, completing it on schedule and budget.
Michael Brooke's complete essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the booklet which accompanies the release.
(i) Pop Culture, Rebellion and Sexual Liberation in the Eastern European Bloc
(ii) Ken Loach on A Blonde in Love
(iii) Miloš Forman - A few notes on A Blonde in Love, Amadeus & The People Vs. Larry Flynt
(iv) Star-crossed in Prague by Peter John Dyer
(v) Michael Brooke's BFI Obituary
A Blonde in Love
(Blu-ray/24fps): 82 mins
Special features: 28 minutes
Sound: 2.0 Mono LPCM (48k/24-bit)
Black and white
Original aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Blu-ray: BD50 / 1080 / 24fps / Region ABC (Region Free)
DVD £12.99 / Blu-Ray: £19.99
Release Date: 29 July 2019