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JAN HUS

Czechoslovakia, 1955 (MIFF 1957, Programme 9)

Director: Otakar Vavra

This colourful film deals with the life of Jan Hus, reformer and preacher, who lived in Bohemia at the beginning of the 15th Century. It starts with the period when Hus preached his fiery sermons against the sale of pardons at the Bethlehem Chapel in Prague and ends with his death at the stake at Constance in 14.15.

This is set against a background of social conflict as a result of changes in Bohemia's economy; squalor and poverty is sharply contrasted with the opulence and corruption of the Church and State.

The film creates a rich, medieval world of pageantry and colour and the settings designed from paintings by Jiri Trnka (of puppet film fame) are vivid and authentic. Hus's activity gave birth to a movement which was not limited to his own country but spread well beyond its frontiers. He opposed the Church of his lime with a desire lo bring about a moral rebirth and a return to Christ's original teachings. This endeavour was closely connected with an effort aiming at a better future for his own people for whom be wanted to prepare "God's Kingdom on Earth", but was opposed by an alliance of the hierarchy of the Church and the powerful feudal aristocracy who fell that their position and property was challenged by his postulates of humanizing the relationships between men.

On the other hand Hus was supported by an enthusiastic younger generation of students desirous of producing changes in public life, by the gentry who were persecuted by their feudal lords and by the people - both of Prague and of the countryside - who had found in him a preacher using simple, yet convincing and inspiring, language.

Jan Hits is the first part of the Hussite trilogy, the second part, Hussite Warrior, was completed early in 1956 and the third part, Against All, has recently been finished. The trilogy covers the whole period of the Hussite movement in Czechoslovakia.

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