What it is…

A film movement that flourished in erstwhile Czechoslovakia, predominantly in the city of Prague, during early and mid-sixties and lasted till the country's invasion by the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc. After the end of the war, Czechoslovakia aligned itself with the USSR and became a socialist state and many of these New Wave films were testimonies, in one way or the other, of life in a communist rule, under the thumb of the Big Brother from the East.

Who its pioneers were...

The debt that the Czech New Wave films owe to the national literature, especially the texts of Milan Kundera who even taught at Prague's film school during the time, has been well documented. Notable filmmakers associated with this movement include Milos Forman, Jiri Menzel, Ivan Passer and Vera Chytilova.

Why it is important...

Although few full-fledged film movements were said to have been deeply influenced, at least on a stylistic level, by the Czech New Wave, the understated, witty, lyrical mannerisms of these films have had many individual takers. Moreover, being a state-controlled enterprise, these films can serve as an ideal model for filmmakers trying to work under and against prohibiting regimes.

Where to find it...

Milos Forman's Firemen's Ball (1967) revolves around a beauty pageant organised by the officials of the fire department of a small town in which everything that can go wrong, does. Forman's film is a hysterical, biting account of the state of the nation, in which old, ineffective men, blinded by vague ideas of pride, seem to have little idea of what people around them are really like.

How it is characterised…

Objectives

One could see the Czech New Wave as a corrective to the Socialist Realism of earlier years, which tended to portray people as supremely independent beings shaping history at will. On the other hand, the New Wave films were liberal humanist in leaning and sought to deal with the common folk of the country who were far removed from historical forces and ideological machinery and yet were inevitably shaped and affected by it.

Style

Unlike its French counterpart, the Czech New Wave films were neither theoretically charged nor formally introspective. In fact, they leaned closer to the best of Hollywood studio pictures, with their classical construction, shooting methods and filming techniques, than to the flamboyance of Nouvelle Vague works. These films resorted to dark, absurdist humour and satire, instead of straight neorealist drama or cinema vérité-driven investigation, to expound their ideas.