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The Valley of the Bees [DVD] [1967]

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Petr Cepek, Jan Kacer, Vera Galatíková, Zdenek Kryzánek
  • Directors: František Vlácil
  • 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: 22 Mar. 2010
  • Run Time: 97 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002ZQX08G
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 52,913 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

A visionary and haunting medieval epic from the director of Marketa Lazarová. Set in 13th century Europe this raw and powerful moral fable of corruption and fundamentalism chronicles the tale of a young boy made to join the Brotherhood of the Teutonic Knights and how as a man he rejects their doctrine, and the terrible price he must pay for that rejection.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I first thing that became immediately apparent upon viewing "The Valley of the Bees" is that it is not going to be another "Marketa Lazarova". Although having been shot almost immediately afterwards it has a far more formal approach to its direction. The great images are still there but the film as a whole lacks the hallucinatory quality that made "Marketa Lazarova" great. This may be intentional though as this films is more about order and not the chaotic barbarism of the previous film which in turn makes it far easier to follow in many respects. The central themes of film are existentialism, fundamentalism and repression which are played out between the two main characters.

So while this is not as great as Marketa Lazarova it is still a great piece of film-making which film buffs will want to see, especially fans of Tarkovsky and to some degree Bresson. Second Run have excelled again with an excellent presentation of an obscure film.

Length: 97 minutes
Sound: Original mono (restored)
Black & White
Original aspect ratio: 2.35:1 16x9 anamorphic
Language: Czech
Subtitles: English On/Off
PAL DVD9
Region 0
Comment 24 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: DVD
Having been knocked sideways by the B & W widescreen imagery and detailed narrative of Marketa Lazarova it comes as quite a surprise to find that The Valley of the Bees is so very different in approach. Being particularly bewildered and absorbed by the complex structure/editing scheme of the former, I found it difficult to comprehend that the latter was the work of the same director.

Made immediately after Marketa Lazarova one might have expected a further development of those complex spatial and temporal editing schemes. Instead, all the structural complexity has gone leaving a very straight forward linear narrative, albeit beautifully made and photographed.

The Second Run transfer is stunning.

I think that some of the action is rather clumsily realised, for example when the father throws his son against the wall, but that's a minor point in an otherwise very impressive film.

I now need to reflect upon the reasons why the director chose to express these two stories a such different ways - it's great film making in either case.
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Format: DVD
Struggling with doubt and guilt, a man tries to escape the Order of Teutonic Knights (a sect of Christian crusaders) and their violent fanaticism.
Vlacil's films were almost entirely forgotten and unknown outside of Czechoslovakia, so the appearance of Marketa Lazarova (1967) on DVD a couple of years back caused quite a stir - it's not every day a fully fledged visionary epic masterpiece turns up. Valley of the Bees was filmed alongside Marketa and, being set in a similar medieval period, Vlacil was able to use some of the same cast, crew, costumes and sets. Valley of the Bees is a more modest & straightforward film than Marketa (and, with its tense involving narrative, perhaps more immediately accessible) but it is filmed & edited in the same style, with almost every image and scene beautifully realized. Vlacil was clearly some kind of cinematic genius.
The film deals with the rejection of a foreign dogma divorced from reality, which can therefore only impose itself by descending into an insane violence. Unsurprisingly the Czech authorities saw the film as an allegorical critique of Soviet repression and with unfortunate timing the 1968 Russian invasion occurred just as the film was released. Today, however, the film might have a resonance in relation to religious fundamentalism, which goes to show how this kind of historical allegory, when done well, always reflects the present. Vlacil is careful to stay true to his characters and their situation in a non-judgemental way, which makes the film richly ambiguous for the viewer.
Another really excellent DVD from Second Run, with a useful essay from Peter Hames included in the accompanying booklet. Hames discusses a third related Vlacil film called Adelheid (1969) - let's hope that gets a release too.
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Shot in gorgeous black and white, Valley of the Bees creates a unique and haunting world reminiscent of the kind of Goth architecture or statues you'd find in Prague on a cloudy day around the St Charles bridge. It's a beautiful film and a great transfer. The accompanying booklet giving a run-down of Vlacil's previous and later films is a nice touch.

In terms of interest and the level to which one is consumed by the plot, I'd put the film at around 4 stars perhaps. The story itself is a bit scary, following the logic of complete devotion to a religious ideal to its farthest extent. The movie exceeds itself in the ancient world it creates, a convincing world, but the end impression is that you are witnessing something vaguely familiar, a slice of an epoch from the history of ancient Europe. As such it seems to delve deeply not only into the psyche of Western culture (on which religion has had more than a little influence), but of human nature as well (as fanaticism has surely manifested itself in more than just religion). The film is a study of the sacred and the profane, which is which? I can understand why communist rule at the time of the release of this film wanted to quelch it. Beyond its setting within a Goth Christian world and it's vision of salvation, it seems to leave one to question the effects of any Machiavellian slavishness to an ideal. Powerful stuff.
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