František Vláčil: A Retrospective

Get lost in the lyricism of the master František Vláčil’s images. We are pleased to bring you a retrospective of one of the most celebrated Czechoslovak filmmakers of all time.

Since 2011 many of the world’s festivals have begun to rediscover and represent František Vláčil's daring and singular work for their audiences. Now you have the chance to see key works from his filmography for the first time online in new copies and with new subtitles.

In June 2002, a major retrospective of Vláčil’s work that was co-organized by Irena Kovarova of the Czech Center kicked off at BAM Film thanks to Florence Almozini and went on to tour in Chicago, Cleveland, Berkeley, and beyond. It earned the praise of prominent writer and film critic Michael Atkinson, who called it “one of the most inspired film series in NYC.” Later when an overview of Vláčil’s films was presented at the Lincoln Center in New York in 2011 under the title The Fantastic World of František Vláčil, the critic Tony Pipolo described it in his article for Artforum magazine as “one of the most important retrospectives to hit New York in recent memory”. He pointed out that although Vláčil’s first film – The White Dove (1960) – received an award at the festival in Venice, and his medieval opus Marketa Lazarová was designated as one of the best Czech films ever made, his work continued to remain in the shadow of Czechoslovak New Wave directors such as Miloš Forman and Jiří Menzel.

Despite the fact that his most important films, such as Marketa Lazarová (1967), The Valley of the Bees (1967), and Adelheid (1969) were shot during the 1960s, his work always stood apart from the New Wave films that enjoyed success around the world. As compared to the other film directors mentioned, Vláčil never studied at the Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU). He arrived at film through his studies in the fields of art history and aesthetics and the film experience he gained in the 1950s with the Army Film Unit. The influence of these experiences is apparent in his short film Clouds of Glass from 1957.

Vláčil differed from the other celebrated filmmakers of the New Wave generation chiefly because of his unmistakable film style and his historical themes. His unique filmmaking signature, which we find in his most famous film Marketa Lazarová, relied on his refined visual composition, strong details that characterised the relevant historical periods, the dominance of music and film sound effects over the dialogue, and the great emphasis he placed on capturing nature and the landscape in a way that enhanced the atmosphere of his films.

All of these processes, in which there is an obvious emphasis on the visual components of the film, earned him the descriptive designation as a painter, or poet, of film imagery. This is supported by, amongst other things, his thorough preparation of each shot that he carefully drew on detailed storyboards and which are in and of themselves now artistic artefacts.

Portál je výsledkem tvůrčí spolupráce 7 klíčových evropských festivalů dokumentárního filmu sdružených do Doc Alliance. Naším cílem je posouvat hranice dokumentárního filmu, propagovat jeho rozmanitost a podporovat kvalitní autorské filmy.

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