Kinoeye:  The fornightly journal of film in the new Europe

Vol 2
Issue 1
7 Jan

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Czech film's love affair with fear and horror

More than any other country in central Europe, the Czech Republic has produced a body of films that explore the sensation of strach (fear), the grotesque, the morbid or the uncanny. Kinoeye examines the phenomenon.

Juraj Herz's Spalovac mrtvol (The Cremator, 1968)Juraj Herz

Drowning the bad times
Juraj Herz interviewed

Herz resists the notion that his work fundamentally belongs to the horror genre, but he explains to Ivana Košuličová that his two blackly comic films about the Holocaust are "real horror."

To excess
The grotesque in
Juraj Herz's Czech films

Herz has worked in a wide range of styles, but in all of them he has flaunted the fantastic and indulged in visual and narrative excess. Daniel Bird reviews his Czech career.

Gothic at heart
Spalovač mrtvol (1968)
and Morgiana (1971)

Ian Conrich on Juraj Herz's two most widely known films

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Jiri Barta's Krysar (The Pied Piper, 1985)ANIMATION
The morality of horror
Jiří Barta's Krysař
(The Pied Piper, 1985)

Barta's adaption of this old tale is a far cry from those of Disney and many others. Ivana Košuličová explains how Barta uses animation to depict the horror of human society.

Karel Kachyna's Ucho (The Ear, 1970)POLITICAL HORROR
Who's afraid of...
Big Brother?

Karel Kachyňa's
Ucho (The Ear, 1970)

Initially noted for its brave political stance, Ucho is now just as remarkable for its pared-down asthetics and unsparing view of a personal relationship in an Orwellian state. Steven Jay Schneider revisits the film.

Jan Svankmajer's Otesanek (Little Otik, 2000)Jan Švankmajer

Bringing up baby
Jan Švankmajer interviewed
about Otesánek (Little Otík, 2000)

Švankmajer's latest feature film is, perhaps, his most conventional work to date. But as the director tells Peter Hames, Otesánek is another angle on a theme that has obsessed him for a long time.

Director Jan Svankmajer filming OtesanekAn alchemist's nightmares
Extracts from Jan Švankmajer's diary

In the pre-production phase of Otesánek (Little Otík), Jan Švankmajer confides to his diary about his occasional doubts in himself and the film, LSD-induced flashbacks he used to experience and dreams that haunt him at night.

Jan Svankmajer's Neco z Alenky (Alice, 1987)Dark wonders and
the Gothic sensibility

Jan Švankmajer's
Něco z Alenky (Alice, 1987)

Švankmajer's films may not be straight horror, but they draw on Gothic literary sources and have a definite appeal to horror film fans, as Brigid Cherry explains.


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Jan Svankmajer's Kostnice (The Ossuary, 1970)The bare
bones of horror

Jan Švankmajer's
(The Ossuary, 1970)

Švankmajer's early career in short film-making holds some under-appreciated masterpieces. Jan Uhde looks at a "horror documentary" shot in the wake of the Soviet-led invasion.

Jiri Svoboda's Prokleti domu Hajnu(The Damned House of Hajn, 1988)

From the archives

Invisibility and repression
Jiří Svoboda's Prokletí domu Hajnů
(The Damned House of Hajn, 1988)

Elements of genre film and auteurism blended in this Gothic noir.

A commercial for
Czech literature

F A Brabec's Kytice
(Wild Flowers, 2000)

Horror motifs from a literary treasure are given the gloss treatment.

Dreaming a bad reality
Radim Spacek's
Rychlé pohyby očí
and Jaromil Jireš's
Valerie a týden divů

A horror classic inspires a trippy exploration of teenage angst.

"Strach: Czech film's love affair with fear and horror" was inspired by "Down to the Cellar: Horror and fantasy in Czech cinema," a weekend of Czech horror films organised by the London Czech Centre, to whom the editors would like to express their thanks for their assistance. Kinoeye would also like to thank Sight & Sound and Keith Griffiths.

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