An excerpt from the booklet essay by Peter Hames

Karel Kachyňa was born in 1924 in the small Moravian town of Vyškov. As with many teenagers during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, he was forced to work in a German factory; after the end of the war he went to the new Academy of Arts in Prague to study cinematography. His graduation film, The Clouds Will Roll Away (Není stále zamrečeno, 1950), was made together with fellow Moravian student Vojtěch Jasný – a semi-documentary set on a farm and with an optimistic message. They continued working together and were later assigned to film a series of reports about soldiers in China; these films, once the Chinese were no longer friendly to Czechoslovakia, were immediately ‘withdrawn from circulation’. Soon after, Kachyňa and Jasný went their separate ways.

Kachyňa’s first solo film was King of the Sumova (Král Šumavy, 1959), which became extremely popular with a younger generation having been fed an official diet of ‘approved’ dramas and characters. The film clearly marked Kachyňa’s preference for visual expressiveness and began to reveal his great strength of storytelling through the use of imagery.

During the early 1960s, Kachyňa met the Moravian writer Jan Procházka and their long collaboration together produced many of the key films in Kachyňa’s oeuvre. After years of work in the Communist Youth organisation, Procházka’s political pedigree was not in doubt; yet he was always outspoken, challenging the establishment with scripts that took unconventional views on the war, liberation and collectivisation. There was also the strange case of his invitation to a reception with President Novotný – the President’s wife heard someone called Procházka talk favourably about her husband on the radio, and the wrong Procházka got invited. However, he impressed the President and thereafter embarked on his project of educating the bureaucracy. He later headed one of the production groups at the Barrandov studios and was responsible for backing Jan Němec’s The Party and the Guests (O slavnosti a hostech, 1966), a devastating and subversive portrait of the workings of power, which was condemned as ‘having nothing in common with our republic, socialism or the ideals of communism’ and, of course, banned.

Kachyňa and Procházka’s second film together, Hope (Naděje, 1963), was openly critical of Czechoslovakian society, being a story of a prostitute and an alcoholic, conditions which did not officially exist under Communism. Their next film, Long Live the Republic (Ať žije repubblika, 1965), once again presented a challenge to ideological simplification. Then came Coach to Vienna (Kočár do Vídně, 1966), with Kachyňa and Procházka producing what could arguably be their most impressive film. It challenged the conventions of the war film in failing to represent partisan fighters in conventional terms. In Night of the Bride (Noc nevěsty, 1967), they took on the contentious subject of collectivisation of agriculture. Treated in an often whimsical and poetic manner, it focuses on a young nun who returns home to organise a Christmas midnight mass of the kind that used to be held in pre-Communist Czechoslovakia. Taken together, the three films from 1965-67 present a world in which socialist ideals of ‘the people’, partisans and communists are challenged and their opponents portrayed as human.

The Ear (Ucho, 1970), the last in the series of Kachyňa and Procházka’s political parables and the final straw for the 'normalisers' who took over after the Soviet invasion. Promptly banned it did not resurface until after the Velvet Revolution twenty years later. Viewed even now, The Ear has not lost any of its sting.


Peter Hames' complete essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the booklet which accompanies the release.

Disc Info

Czechoslovakia, 1970
The Ear: 95 mins
Special features: 36 minutes
Sound: 2.0 Mono LPCM (48k/16-bit)
Black and white
Original aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Language: Czech
Subtitles: English

Blu-ray: BD50 / 1080 / 24fps / Region ABC (Region Free)

Blu-Ray: £19.99
Release Date: 26 Aug 2019


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