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PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 4:24 am 
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I can confirm that there are around a dozen titles being screened, spanning the vast majority of his output.

There are a few omissions, but I don't think anyone will be too disappointed: only the most hardcore Vláčil fans will even have heard of the missing films, which are generally from the later, far less satisfying part of his career.

My current list is as follows - though please note that these are not 100% confirmed (though as they'll be locked down in less than a week it's highly likely that this is the final list):

Glass Sky (Skleněná oblaka, 1958, short)
The White Dove (Holubice, 1960)
The Devil's Trap (Ďáblova past, 1961)
Marketa Lazarová (1967)
Valley of the Bees (Údolí včel, 1967)
Adelheid (1969)
Prague Art Nouveau (Praha secesní, 1974, short)
Sirius (1974)
Smoke from the Potato Field (Dým bramborové natě, 1976)
Shadows of a Hot Summer (Stíny horkého léta, 1977)
The Serpent's Poison (Hadí jed, 1982)
A Little Shepherd Boy from the Valley (Pasáček z doliny, 1984)
Shadow of a Fern (Stín kapradiny, 1985)
plus
Sentiment (d. Tomáš Hejtmánek, 2003) - a feature-length documentary about Vláčil and his work that Second Run tried and failed to secure as an extra on their Marketa Lazarová disc.

I think there's also going to be at least one special event - details tbc, and I'll post dates/times for everything.

Given that this is probably one of the major online meeting-places for Vláčil fans, I don't suppose Bikey will mind if I use these threads to add more info? (A rhetorical question: the idea of him objecting is pretty much inconceivable!)


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 7:32 pm 
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I am convinced that Vlacil was an alien now. Even this movie which is slower and more focused than Marketa, basically it's opposite, doesn't seem to be talking about human society of the past or even present. Then whole thing feels like a Robert Howard fantasy. That people were even like this is shocking. The whole film seems like an exercise in how absurd people are, it's appropriately frightening. It also makes me think of what our culture will have to look like to people 500 years from now.

I know I'm going to be disappointed after Adelheid. Unless I go to the lone Facets vomit job it will mean no more subbed Vlacil discoveries for a while. Guess it's something I'm just going to have to live with until SR pick up more of his films.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 7:47 pm 
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There are three Czech releases - Smoke on the Potato Fields (Dým bramborové natě, 1976), Shadows of a Hot Summer (Stíny horkého léta, 1977) and The Shadow of the Fern (Stín kapradiny, 1984) - which are unsubtitled, but there are decent .srt subtitle files available for all three.

His last feature Mág (1987) is also available, but I haven't tracked down English subtitles for that one yet.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 11:01 pm 
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What's a .srt subtitle? I'd love to see those films, especially Potato, and if that's truly the cure I'd be in heaven.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 04, 2010 5:08 am 
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It's a standard subtitle format that various programs (including VLC) can use to add subtitles to DVDs (or video files of any description) that otherwise don't have them.

I'm amazed at what's out there - I imported of Czech DVD for Pearls of the Deep because the Facets one was unwatchable, and found subtitles not only for the main feature but also one of the supporting shorts (Ivan Passer's lovely A Boring Afternoon, which wasn't on the Facets disc at all). Not only that, but they were noticeably superior subtitles to the ones on the Facets DVD - a more complete translation, and much better synchronised.

Oh, and following a very pleasant surprise in my inbox this morning, I now have a .srt file for Mág as well.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 1:25 pm 

Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:49 pm
MichaelB wrote:
Glass Sky (Skleněná oblaka, 1958, short)
The White Dove (Holubice, 1960)
The Devil's Trap (Ďáblova past, 1961)
Marketa Lazarová (1967)
Valley of the Bees (Údolí včel, 1967)
Adelheid (1969)
Prague Art Nouveau (Praha secesní, 1974, short)
Sirius (1974)
Smoke from the Potato Field (Dým bramborové natě, 1976)
Shadows of a Hot Summer (Stíny horkého léta, 1977)
The Serpent's Poison (Hadí jed, 1982)
A Little Shepherd Boy from the Valley (Pasáček z doliny, 1984)
Shadow of a Fern (Stín kapradiny, 1985)
Sentiment (d. Tomáš Hejtmánek, 2003)

These are all coming to the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York in February. Woo-hoo! And I like to think this is a direct result of my alerting them to the BFI Southbank program....


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 1:39 pm 
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As far as I'm aware, these are the titles that currently aren't available on video anywhere in the world:

Glass Sky (Skleněná oblaka, 1958, short)
The Devil's Trap (Ďáblova past, 1961)
Prague Art Nouveau (Praha secesní, 1974, short)
Sirius (1974)
The Serpent's Poison (Hadí jed, 1982)
A Little Shepherd Boy from the Valley (Pasáček z doliny, 1984)

Out of that lot, The Devil's Trap would probably be my first recommendation.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 11:42 am 

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Screening at the AFI Silver in Silver Spring, MD on Saturday, May 7 and Sunday, May 8. Both are afternoon screenings.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2016 6:35 am 
Not PETA approved
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DISCUSSION ENDS MONDAY, FEBRUARY 15th

Members have a two week period in which to discuss the film before it's moved to its dedicated thread in The Criterion Collection subforum. Please read the Rules and Procedures.

This thread is not spoiler free. This is a discussion thread; you should expect plot points of the individual films under discussion to be discussed openly. See: spoiler rules.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

I encourage members to submit questions, either those designed to elicit discussion and point out interesting things to keep an eye on, or just something you want answered. This will be extremely helpful in getting discussion started. Starting is always the hardest part, all the more so if it's unguided. Questions can be submitted to me via PM.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2016 4:48 pm 
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Some questions, in case anyone finds them helpful:

What does this film’s title mean? What do the bees signify? What characteristics define ‘the valley of the bees’, and how is this contrasted to the castle by the sea, where the Teutonic Knights live? For instance, what is the difference between bathing in sea water, as Armin and Ondřej do, and bathing in spring water, as Ondřej does when he returns home?

Why does Ondřej give the bats (hidden by blossoms) to his stepmother: what is he saying to her, and to his father, through this gesture? Why does he seem to expect his father to be amused by this? Why instead does his father react so violently?

Three people are torn apart by dogs in this film: Rotgier, Armin, and Ondřej’s father (though we don’t see the latter); and there’s the deer, of course. Is there some connection between these deaths? Where do dogs fit in, alongside bats and bees, in this film’s animal symbolism?

What is this film saying about religion? How does Armin’s conception of religious faith differ from that of the priest (and, perhaps, from that of the other members of the Order)? What effect did Armin’s trip to the Holy Land have on him, why does he still carry around the bag of sand, and what does it mean for him when this sand is poured away?

What is the nature of the bond between Ondřej and Armin? What is it about the Order, and about Armin specifically, that drives Ondřej to run away? Why is Armin so bent on bringing Ondřej back? Why does he kill Lenora, and why at that moment and in that way? And why does Ondřej return to the Order, in the end?


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2016 3:40 am 
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Since seeing marketa lazarova, this is my most wanted film for criterion to put out is there a non piracy, region locked way to see the film in the United States?


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2016 3:46 am 
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Location: Stretford, Manchester
The best way to watch the film right now is to download an HDTV broadcast that was shown in the Czech Republic. It beats the picture quality of the Second Run disc comfortably.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 10:23 pm 
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Ok, I'll bite and try to get some discussion going!

Marketa Lazarová is my favorite film of all time, and likewise I really enjoy this film. I rewatched it specifically for film club and I've finally got a free night and I would feel much too convicted not contributing anything. So here goes what hopefully doesn't amount to just rambling...

The narrative is more of a driving force in Valley of the Bees than in Marketa. The comparison between local paganism of the time and the growing institutional Christianity is still present but is at the forefront. I especially appreciated the scene in the church towards the end with the contrast between Armin's duty of bringing Ondřej back to the order and Father Blasius' more relaxed version of local Christianity and how he's pretty much complacent technically endorsing incest.

In comparing Ondřej's two "homes," the Teutonic Knights' castle and his own fortress, the castle by the sea is always photographed as menacing and controlling. Who is in control in each setting ties in with these themes of oppressive religious orders. The knights are always subject to the rules of their religious leaders and, likewise, when Ondřej and Armin bathe in the sea, they are subject to the rhythm of the waves and the sea's will. Back at his own fortress, Ondřej has his servants bathe him in water from the well; he is in control back at his home.

I'd say that Armin's bond to Ondřej is more complex than just a latent homosexual one, even though they first meet on the beach where Ondřej is nude and they later share that previously mentioned experience bathing in the sea. Armin has seen many of his comrades die in the service of his order through his campaign in the Holy Land, and all in vain. Armin is also constantly reminded of this by the bag of sand he carries with him. Ondřej offers a bond that I viewed much closer to that of a sibling than anything romantic, at least in my most recent revisit. Perhaps it is this familial bond that reminds Ondřej of his life in the valley and inspires him to escape, in addition to the failed escape attempt he witnesses.

The religious order employ the hungry dogs to tear apart anyone who strays from the Teutonic code, which to me portrays the dogs as institutionalized religion's common tendency to take divine wrath into its own hands. Particularly interesting is Ondřej's father's offscreen demise. He makes an oath to God to commit his son to the work of the Virgin Mary, in other words, trying to influence divine will as he sees it. Even with his son "sacrificed" to the order, he still meets his end at the hand of his own hunting dogs, an event that suggests, IMO, there is no influence on God's judgement. I also find it interesting that he chooses the Teutonic Knights as the order he dedicates his son, since his initial promise is to just the work of the Virgin Mary, nothing specific about Knights IIRC. Does anyone know if there were other choices in religious orders at this time that would have fit this same condition? If not, it may say something that Ondřej's father picks a particularly violent and highly regulative order.

I think Father Blasius' words at the wedding feast really resonate with Ondřej. Blasius focuses on the bees Ondřej tends and notes that if their home is destroyed, they resolve to just start anew somewhere else. Ondřej very much is searching for an actual home for a good portion of the film. At the very end of the film, when everyone he's ever loved has died, he chooses to try starting again, like the bees, with the promise of forgiveness back with the Order, as Armin promises him.

Well, that's all I got for now. I hope everyone can see this awesome film and contribute a little bit to the discussion while the film club conversation is open :D


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2016 6:47 am 
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Great points all round, especially on the water imagery, and on the dogs:

theflirtydozen wrote:
The religious order employ the hungry dogs to tear apart anyone who strays from the Teutonic code, which to me portrays the dogs as institutionalized religion's common tendency to take divine wrath into its own hands. Particularly interesting is Ondřej's father's offscreen demise. He makes an oath to God to commit his son to the work of the Virgin Mary, in other words, trying to influence divine will as he sees it. Even with his son "sacrificed" to the order, he still meets his end at the hand of his own hunting dogs, an event that suggests, IMO, there is no influence on God's judgement.

I’d only disagree slightly with the last bit: I think the point here is that there is no God and no divine judgement. When Armin is talking to Father Blasius, he says that it wouldn’t matter if humanity went extinct; the world would still be inhabited by ‘angels’. These angels must exist, he says rather desperately, otherwise we would live ‘in darkness, like dogs or wolves’. He also articulates his frustration with the life of the Order: why should only the virtuous starve and freeze to death in dark, cold cells, with only the prospect of death offering an escape from this ‘loneliness’, while sinners live like animals, ‘like ants’?

When Rotgier rejects the Order and harms one of its members, he is cast to the dogs to signify his choice of a godless existence, down in the dark amongst the wolves. When Ondřej’s father is killed by his own dogs, it is just after having his eye poked out by a branch and falling off his horse into a marsh; he too is deprived of light and suffers a descent, which I don’t think represents divine judgement so much as a cruel mockery of his attempts at aspirational faith.

Finally, think about what precipitates Armin’s death. He struggles with his loneliness and his doubts about the validity of his way of life. At the wedding feast, he finds himself among the bees and ants, looking at a woman, kissing her, feeling human warmth, a momentary escape from loneliness (but one that he cannot embrace, for reasons that are too complex for me to articulate, and that I think hold the key to understanding why Ondřej goes back to the Order at the end). The sand he brought back from his pilgrimage, which he had invested with such sacred meaning, is mistaken for sand from the beach near the Order’s castle, admired only for its sensuous qualities (its ‘fineness’), and casually poured away – cruelly underlining its essential earthliness and transience. When Armin kills Lenora, this also expresses his own death-wish. He hardly puts up a fight when Ondřej’s servants seize him, and then he is ‘cast down’ (like Rotgier and Ondřej’s father), this time into the courtyard. When presented with the cross, he says that he ‘cannot see’, I think because his faith is gone: he is in that low, dark, godless place he was so afraid of, among the wolves, and longs only for death; but weirdly, he still wants to save Ondřej’s faith in the process of his own self-imposed damnation (wrong word perhaps; ‘annihilation’ might be better).

The deer is also significant in this pattern of imagery. Ondřej mutters that this deer was ‘made for hunting dogs’, destined by nature to be hunted down and devoured. Then, as he hears the story of his father’s death, he remarks that his mother ‘never told him’ about it; the servant says this is unsurprising, as she ‘hates to think of it’. At this precise moment, the servant cuts the deer’s throat and drains its blood out, and Ondřej seems vaguely troubled by this sight. The moment foreshadows Lenora’s death: we see the blood gush from her throat when Armin cuts it, and I guess she is figured as innocent and vulnerable, like the deer. I’m not sure exactly what to make of all this, but there is clearly some association between Lenora’s horror at the thought of her husband’s death (and ‘the evil that went into the grave’, as she puts it), the killing and bleeding of the deer, and the death of Lenora herself. Note also that Lenora dies at the precise moment when we see her head and face released, for the first time, from the restrictive white bands that surround it. There’s a strong sense, in this film, that sensual liberation is as impossible as religious salvation. Perhaps institutionalised religion is the ‘villain’ here, preventing us from fulfilling our natural inclinations, but I think the point may be more subtle and elusive than that.

One other, associated, pattern of imagery that I thought was interesting: at the start of the film, we see Ondřej tending to the bees, and there’s a striking image of a bat nailed to one of the bees’ nests. Bats used to be nailed to doors to keep away evil spirits. I’m not an expert on this particular superstition, but I guess because they’re creatures of darkness, this gave them demonic associations. The contrast between bats and bees works alongside the contrasts between bees (or ants) and dogs, and between sea water and spring water, darkness and light, Armin scaring the valley’s vaguely heathenish inhabitants, the storm scaring the bees, etc. There’s a recurring motif of emerging out of a dark room into blinding light throughout the film, and a lot of interesting play with the competing sounds of bees and ocean waves on the soundtrack, at significant moments.

Young Ondřej presents his stepmother with a basket of bats, buried under a heap of blossoms, and this is another iteration of the same kind of contrast: blossoms, associated with light, are placed on top; buried underneath them are bats, associated with dark, demonic forces. It’s as if Ondřej sees his stepmother as a demonic force (significant, of course, that she seems roughly his age, and that there seems to be some kind of erotic charge in their initial exchange of glances) and is trying to dispel her by tricking her into touching the bats. He expects his father to be pleased with him for exposing and exorcising this demon who has come into their midst, ruining the purity of their family. The father reacts by trying to kill Ondřej, but then reaches out to the Order for salvation.

At the end of the film, Ondřej takes up his father’s role in marrying Lenora, Armin takes up Ondřej’s role by arriving at the wedding feast in order to disrupt it (this blog post underlines the point by observing the visual rhyme between Ondřej’s appearance in the doorway at the start of the film and Armin’s appearance in the same doorway at the end), Armin tries in some sense to exorcise the demon of the woman who stirs his erotic desires and, like Ondřej, believes that he is acting in the best interests of the woman’s husband (here Armin’s surrogate brother, or perhaps son, rather than his father). Ondřej responds by actually killing Armin, but then, like his father, reaches out to the Order for salvation – that seems to reductive a phrase to explain why he goes back to the Order at the end, but there’s clearly a significant echo here. I also noticed that Ondřej’s fear of Armin’s arrival at his home often flares up when someone refers to his father. Ondřej is a convincingly screwed up character, unable to disentangle the associations between these different forces in his life (father, brother, stepmother, wife), or the neuroses that his traumatic upbringing has inflicted on him.

So much more to say about this film... Two years ago, when we discussed Marketa Lazarová, I got so caught up in its intricate, complex imagery and symbolism that I became a bit obsessed with it. I kept re-watching it compulsively, tried to do a shot-by-shot analysis, and ended up with about 10,000 words of rambling notes on the first hour or so of the film. I had to give up for the sake of my own sanity. I feel like I’m now slipping into that with The Valley of the Bees. Like The White Dove and Adelheid as well, the film just keeps getting richer every time I see it. As well as being stimulating on a cerebral level, these films are also just so beautiful; I hesitate to use the word ‘perfect’, but it does seem to apply here. They beg for close analysis, but it’s frustrating trying to boil my reactions down into a coherent interpretation. These films evoke and suggest so many different ideas and emotions at once. It’s really incredible. I wish more of Vláčil’s work would be made available in English-friendly editions.


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