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pastINDEPENDENT OF REALITY:
THE FILMS OF JAN NĚMEC
NOVEMBER 2013–APRIL 2014
A LOAF OF BREAD (Sousto, 1960)
A LOAF OF BREAD
Sousto, 1960, 11m, Czechoslovakia
Based on a story by Arnošt Lustig, Němec’s graduation film follows the story of starving prisoners plotting to steal a piece of bread from a parked train in preparation for their escape (the subject of the director’s first feature). The film won an award at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen.
DIAMONDS OF THE NIGHT (Démanty noci, 1964) Němec’s first feature length film follows the escape of two young concentration camp prisoners through the woods of Sudetenland and the ensuing pursuit of them. THE PARTY AND THE GUESTS (O slavnosti a hostech, 1966) An examination of the mechanics of power and the ways people collaborate in the reality that oppresses them, the film follows a group of middle-aged bourgeois friends as they picnic in the woods on their way to a celebration. PEARLS OF THE DEEP (Perličky na dně, 1966) A manifesto of the Czechoslovak New Wave, this anthology of five short films by five rising directors is based on a book by the celebrated writer Bohumil Hrabal. MARTYRS OF LOVE (Mučedníci lásky, 1967) The most perfect embodiment of Němec’s vision of a film world independent of reality. Mounting a defense of timid, inhibited, clumsy, and unsuccessful individuals, the three protagonists are a complete antithesis of the industrious heroes of socialist aesthetics. ORATORIO FOR PRAGUE (1968) With film stock and camera at his disposal, director Němec was ready to document the invasion by Soviet tanks in August 1968, which crushed the democratization process of the so called Prague Spring. METAMORPHOSIS (Die Verwandlung, 1975) Taking a typically personal approach, Němec depicts Samsa’s world through a subjective camera, emphasizing his inner world and his observation of shocked family and his surroundings. LATE NIGHT TALKS WITH MOTHER (Noční hovory s matkou, 2001) Experimenting with digital video formats, this counterpart to Kafka’s Letter to Father finds the director probing his own psyche in the form of a confessional dialogue with his long deceased mother. TOYEN (2005) In one of the most enigmatic films of his career, Němec uses an abstract structure to create this portrait of revered Surrealist painter Toyen. The film, true to the subject’s own style, is an idiosyncratic vision that revisits the most oppressive period of her life. THE FERRARI DINO GIRL (Holka Ferrari Dino, 2009) While shooting a documentary about the exciting and hopeful period known as the Prague Spring, Němec and his crew found themselves watching and filming in horror as the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1968. GOLDEN SIXTIES: JAN NĚMEC (Zlatá šedesátá, 2011, dir. Martin Šulík) An illuminating portrait of Jan Němec from a 27-part TV series about masters of the Czechoslovak New Wave. A LOAF OF BREAD (Sousto, 1960) Němec’s graduation film follows the story of starving prisoners plotting to steal a piece of bread from a parked train in preparation for their escape. MOTHER AND SON (Moeder en zoon, 1967) An absurdist tale about a doting mother of a brutal torturer.
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