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Larks on a String (Skrivánci na niti) [DVD]

6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Vlastimil Brodský, Vera Ferbasová, Vera Galatíková, Rudolf Hru ínský, Eugen Jegorov
  • Directors: Jirí Menzel
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: Czech
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Second Run DVD
  • DVD Release Date: 14 Mar. 2011
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004C9MC3S
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 73,809 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

Shot in 1969, but banned by the Czech government until the fall of the Communist regime in 1990, Menzel s wry comic drama is a hymn to humanity and nonconformity. The film s principal characters are residents of a state-run junkyard / labour camp for those whose actions have been deemed counter-revolutionary . On one side of the yard live the men, most sent here for re-education . On the other side, are a group of women interned for the crime of attempted defection. Separately, the two groups lazily toil, sorting out piles of scrap metal (one huge pile is nothing less than a veritable mountain of crucifixes and religious icons); together, they flirt, philosophize, and occasionally sneak off behind the hillocks of slag to make love. Larks on a String is at once a stinging indictment of the repressive politics of Czechoslovakia's past, and an endearing comedy and affecting love story.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A. S. Potts on 16 Mar. 2011
From Second Run comes Jiri Menzel's Larks on a String. Unlike my review of Foreman's A Blonde in Love in which I didn't refer to the political context at all, as you view this film it soon becomes apparent that any such omission is not possible. In fact, even factoring in the liberalisation of the Prague Spring or the fact of its historical setting [in the early years of the communist regime], it's hard to imagine how Menzel and the writer Bohumil Hrabal thought they'd get away with this all out assault on the system. The film was immediately banned on completion and didn't see the light of day for another 20 years, and the artists didn't work again for some years.

The story is set in the scrap yard of a steel foundry and centres on two groups of prisoners; the 'bourgeois' men are being 're-educated' to better serve the state, while the women, under separate guard, have offended the state by trying to leave it. Both groups are generally worked separately but on rare and beautiful occasions they are able to mingle.

The film is a lyrical polemic full of dark humour, satirical regime goading and exquisite moments of intimate human contact. These moments are profoundly moving; for example, when the women are allowed to help the men form a hand to hand chain in order to shift some heavy steel ingots they remove their gloves in order to experience the touch of each others bare hands. In this dismal environment every tiny nuance of their behaviour is an assertion of their human values and spirit of individualism in the face of the dehumanising regime. Meanwhile, more outspoken criticisms result in characters being hauled off by anonymous men in rain coats.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. R. Sathiah on 27 Jun. 2012
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It is not hard to see why the post-Prague Spring regime banned this low key portrayal of men and women thrown together in the apocalyptic setting of a recycling foundry yard (shades of Mao's great Leap Forward).. There, a bunch of middle aged former intellectuals and mildly dissident men are working, under the assumption that work will cure them of their bad, bourgeois mentalities and habits. Next to them is a women prisoners camp: their crime was to attempt to defect. In between, guards and officials, trade unionists in the government pay and the secret police keep an eye on them, quietly whisking them away when they protest too loudly. In between, we are shown several shots of typical Soviet era banners lauding workers and encouraging the usual joyous forward march.
The men spend much of their time discussing philosophy, quoting Kant and Greek moralists, talking about sport, reminiscing and watching the women. There is dark humour and satire but overall, looking at them chatting quite freely and occasionally cavorting with the women prisoners under the benign look of a young guard, the viewer can't help thinking that their lot is overall better than that of the officials who march to orders mouthing their tired slogans. One scene shows a senile VIP visiting the yard, sounding of inanities, although retaining enough wit to get one of the workers arrested when the latter asks uncomfortable questions. Another shows a bunch of school children led by their teacher, visiting them like they would a zoo, the teacher pointing at them and denouncing their sins.
As a political satire it is understated and mild. As a film of human interest I found it rather "flat" as it never quite fully engages one, the characters portrayed somehow appearing quite (almost happily) resigned to their fate.
Overall an enjoyable film but...
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Rich TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Mar. 2011
I can't add a great deal to AS Potts' excellent review, other than to add my own endorsement and recommendation.

The director, Jiri Menzel, will be best known to English speaking audiences for Closely Observed Trains, which won an Oscar in 1966 for best foreign language film. I first came across his work when I saw Cutting it Short on TV many years ago. It was the funniest and most touching foreign language film I had ever seen. Like Larks on a String, it was based on the works of the Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal, with whom Menzel collaborated on a series of films.

Although Larks on a String is a very political film, hence its banning by the authorities, it is also touching and funny. Menzel is a wonderfully astute observer of the relationships between men and women and finds touching, quirky humour in many places.

Hopefully this release by Second Run will herald the release of more Jiri Menzel films. I have acquired several as imports from a well known auction site and can assure you that there are many more gems to be found, particularly Cutting it Short and My Sweet Little Village.
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