Czechoslovakia (MIFF 1969 , Programme 11)
Director: Jan Němec

A group of summer picnickers wandering through a wood are led by a genial host to a sumptuous alfresco birthday party, where candles burn on long tables in a setting like a vast outdoor banqueting hall. Then a woman discovers she is sitting in the wrong place, so everyone shuffles round. A man deserts the party. The host complains. Don't they know how to be happy? he petulantly demands. Why are they spoiling his party? Hasn't he done enough for them? ...

An atmosphere of claustrophobia and helplessness is achieved by the film being shot throughout in a series of ferocious close-ups. It is a provocative Kafkaesque feature by the maker of Diamonds in the Night. As a comment on human conduct under totalitarian rule, it is scathing and pessimistic. It is played, as if in a charade, by non­professional actors all committed to the reform movement. On completion, the fiim was banned. But defiantly it was awarded the Czech Critics' Prize, and has only now been released.

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