Sunday 11 March 2012

The Party and the Guests [1966]

Jan Nemec, despite not being able to make many films during his heydays because of the state-sanctioned impositions, was one of the forbearers of the Czech New Wave movement. Along with his Diamonds of the Night, The Party and the Guests remains not just as his greatest accomplishment, but also one of the cornerstones of the incredible but short-lived New Wave. Though crisp in length, this was a marvelous satire on the seductive charm of Communism and the blind conformity it demands. The plot concerns a group of seemingly well-off individuals enjoying an idyllic picnic in the woods when they are suddenly hijacked by a sociopathic guy and his gang who revel by inducing psychological torture on the group members – and punishing them if his authority is questioned. The group is however saved when a genteel man appears in the scene (who obviously had greater authority than the other guy) and invites them to the lavish lunch he has organized to celebrate his birthday. This allegorical and absurdist tale made terrific use of idiosyncratic and subversive humour to make disquieting observations on power-hungry dictators who ensure compliance to their diktats either through charming persuasive techniques or by letting their henchmen loose on dissenters. It also beautifully commentated on how moments of comfort can make most intelligent people forget more important things like freedoms of thought, choice and action. Suffice it to say, but for a brief reprieve during Prague Spring, the film remained banned till the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

Director: Jan Nemec
Genre: Comedy/Political Satire/Absurdist Comedy/Avant-Garde
Language: Czech
Country: Czech Republic (erstwhile Czechoslovakia)


Amritorupa Kanjilal said...

Shubhajit, Hi!
You probably don't remember me, but I used to be a regular visitor to your blog. It's so good to see you are still writing in your dry, witty style. Will visit regularly now.

Shubhajit, I recently started a new blog, chiefly for books and book reviews, but it will also have occasional movie reviews. Please visit it and leave your feedback
If you like the blog, please become a follower. looking forward to having you as a reader

Shubhajit said...

Hi LGL, long time no see! I do remember you :)

Thanks for the good words and for once again visiting my humble blog. Great to know that you've started a new blog devoted chiefly to book reviews. I too had started a literary blog sometime back, but unfortunately it has gone into a dormant state - I really need to get that back into active mode.

Anyway, I'm sure I'm going to like your new blog, so count me in as a regular reader.

Joel Bocko said...

An excellent film, and I feel like it might be one of the most archetypal New Wave films - it has the veiled social commentary, the broad farcical sense of humor, the touch of (naturalistic) surrealism, and the loose yet relatively straightforward style.

One thing I find interesting is comparing the surrealism in this, Daisies, and Miraculous Virgin - in this it's located primarily in the screenplay, in Daisies the editing, and in MV the camera style. It's interesting to see with what shifts in emphasis a filmmaker can upset the viewer's apple cart.

Shubhajit said...

I'm aware that this film has been variously referred to as a surrealistic movie. However, I'm finding it a tad difficult to consider it as one (for me this is an allegorical tale where a seemingly nonsense premise is used to act as a broad political satire, much like Forman's Firemen's Ball).

But, that said, this is a really interesting comparison that you've drawn. Daisies was indeed a brilliant attempt at surrealism - not just through its editing, but also through its screenplay and overall style, methinks. As for Miraculous Virgin, though I haven't yet watched it, I can sure appreciate your points given my awareness of that film.

In fact, now that you've mentioned, simply based on the humour quotient and the way humour has been used as a means of storytelling (black, subversive, ironic, surrealistic, whimsical, light-hearted, dry, etc.), I think it would be a great exercise to juxtapose the various Czech New Wave movies that one has seen.

Thanks a lot Joel for sharing your terrific views on this really wonderful little movie.