Czech New Wave


Sasha Kaiser, Staff Writer

In 1963 a new era of films started in Czechoslovakia, one that would push for the abolition of censorship and for a more democratic government. The movement was led by students of the Academy of the Performing Arts in Prague and came partly as a result of the pressure for social and political reform that was developing at the time.

Three of the biggest names in the movement are Milos Forman, Vera Chytilová,  and Jaromil Jires. The debut features of these three directors were what really launched the new wave into action, causing many new directors to join the movement and put their own take on it. “The films of the Czechoslovak new wave, or the attempts of the filmmakers, was really in contradiction to whatever they were seeing in the cinemas,” film programmer Irena Kovarova states in an interview with the Criterion Channel. At the time during the postwar era, most films were directed by the government, but this new generation of filmmakers wanted to create something new and something they could relate to.

Although everything that came out during this time was different, and everyone had their own approaches, there were a couple of similarities that these films shared. The most notable would be the absurd humor. Normally, a very dry satire of their government. Surrealism and the use of non-professional actors, were also very important to the movement. With the Czech new wave, came a chance for artistic freedom and lack of censorship, but even though the government would fund their works, directors had a tendency to bite the hand that feeds by criticizing the government in their films, which tended to get them into trouble. Sometimes these movies would end up becoming banned in the country, but if they found success overseas, the ban would be lifted.

Sadly, this era was short-lived. In 1968 the new government put an end to the movement. Some directors like Milos Forman fled the country to continue their works abroad, but the ones who stayed had to face strict censorship, and some would be hindered from making films at all.

Although it did not last long, the Czech new wave made its mark and is something worth looking into.

Notable Czech new wave movies:

  • The cremator (dir. Juraj Herz)
  • The cry (dir. Jaromil Jires)
  • The White Dove (dir. Frantisek Vlácil)
  • The hand (dir. Jirrí Trnka)
  • Marketa lazerova (dir. František Vláčil)
  • Something different (dir. vera chytilova)
  • Oratorio for Prague (dir. Jan Neměc)
  • A Report on the Party and the Guests (dir. Jan Němec)
  • Pearls of the Deep (dir. Jiří Menzel, Jan Němec, Evald Schorm, Věra Chytilová, Jaromil Jireš )