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’The Uninvited Guest’ and ‘Josef Kilián'

THE UNINVITED GUEST

He knocks on a couple’s door at night and hauls in his suitcase. He knows what people are like, and he knows what is what; just don’t ask where he’s from. Such are the times; accept it. At first the couple oppose the stranger, but it turns out that They are everywhere. They watch and report. This one is pretty nice, actually—he’ll be like a brother, a friend…

Venclík made this film while studying at Prague’s Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU). The initial idea was to make a humorous spoof of the Czech tendency to adapt to circumstances as a means of survival, much like J. Hašek’s comic literary hero, Švejk, does. But this film was made just one year after the Prague Spring—the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia—and the work was seen as an insurgency against the ruling regime. Venclík was subsequently expelled from the academy, which basically ruined his career, and The Uninvited Guest remained in the State Security archives only because it had been labeled as an inconsequential item.

JOSEF KILIÁN

Sunny old Prague. The crossroads of two cobbled streets—to the right, a line of children speedily walks by under their teachers’ escort; to the left, a column of soldiers marches by; to the right, two white horses pulling a hearse wagon lead a slow-moving funeral procession… Looking upwards instead of at this disciplined movement, stands a stately man. Soon he will understand nothing. Neither how to find Josef Kilián—to inform him about someone’s death, nor how to get a certificate indicating that he has unsuccessfully tried to return a rented cat.

A satirical allegory of the submissive powerlessness of the individual in an authoritarian bureaucratic society. The protagonist’s useless pursuit as he walks through labyrinths of streets, hallways, waiting rooms and stairwells has an absurd atmosphere that suggests a strong Kafkaesque influence. Yet P. Juráček, the film’s screenwriter and director, who above all else wanted to be a writer, had not yet read neither The Castle nor The Trial. He sought to create an original world, not a copy of it.

In This Screening

Josef Kilián
Pavel Juráček, Jan Schmidt
IN KINO VERITAS