Skylarks on the String

Direction
Year
1969
Country
  • Czech Republic
Runtime
91min
Audio Tracks
Subtitles

The film is set in Kladno steelworks, a place where political offenders against the communist regime were sent for “temporary employment”. These might include insubordinate intellectuals, religious affiliates or small traders. The temporary workers in the film include a former state prosecutor (Leoš Suchařípa), a young Adventist named Pavel (Václav Neckář), his love and fellow inmate Jitka (Jitka Zelenohorská) and the barber Kudla (Ferdinand Krůta). All are watched over by the young guard Anděl (Jaroslav Satoranský) who has also been charged with keeping an eye on the “hill girls” – women who try to cross over the country’s mountainous western borders. Although the main protagonists are all in the same boat, friendship and mutual loyalty have their limitations when there is no chance of justice and no way to appeal for help. A fanatical leader of a communist youth organisation points out the “enemies of the regime” to visiting Pioneers (the socialists’ favoured term for “scouts) as if they are contagious exotic animals. Even though things can always get worse, life never ceases to be both strange and beautiful…

Rather than being greeted by popular acclaim, plaudits from critics and awards from international film festivals, the film instead ended up in the infamous “censor’s vault”. There was little appetite for storylines exploring the theme of 1950s’ political persecution in a Czechoslovak film industry that was busy adapting itself to the demands of post-1968 “normalisation”. A scene featuring senile government minister Zdeněk Nejedlý (Vladimír Šmeral) was cut but it was still not enough to placate the censor. The film was only premiered after November 1989 and although it earned its creator a Golden Bear at the 1990 Berlin International Film Festival it was a belated satisfaction. After Skylarks on the String, Menzel was not permitted to make another film for five years. His next offering was a essentially a socialist propaganda piece about the builders of a better future, Kdo hledá zlaté dno (Who Looks for Gold, 1974).

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Details

  • Original Title
    Skřivánci na niti
  • Direction
  • Screenplay
    Jiří Menzel, Bohumil Hrabal
  • Cast
    Rudolf Hrušínský, Václav Neckář, Jitka Zelenohorská, Vladimír Ptáček, Naďa Urbánková, Vlastimil Brodský, Ferdinand Krůta, František Řehák, Leoš Suchařípa, Karel Mareš, Jiřina Štěpničková, Ladislav Šimek, Otakar Brousek st., Míla Myslíková...
  • Cinematography
    Jaromír Šofr
  • Editing
    Jiřina Lukešová
  • Music
    Jiří Šust
  • Sound
    Jiří Pavlík
  • Runtime
    91 min (91+ min.)
  • Year
    1969
  • Country
    • Czech Republic
  • Format
    • Colour
  • Distribution

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