Miloš Forman’s bittersweet comedy drama is a gem of the Czech New Wave.
A Blonde in Love (Lí¡sky jedné plavovlí¡sky, 1966) is a gem of the Czech New Wave. As Czechoslovakia’s communist censors relaxed their hold on culture in the 1960s, directors still had the benefit of 100% state funding for their films, but with greater freedom of expression. Some directors took advantage of this freedom by making stylised, fanciful films that would previously have been condemned as avant-garde. For other directors, the most exciting part of the liberalisation was the permission to make films about everyday life, warts and all, rather than idealised propaganda pieces. Within the Czech New Wave, a distinctive strand of filmmaking emerged: fiction films that were strongly influenced by documentary, but which also highlighted the absurd in everyday situations. As Miloš Forman was the most prominent representative of this approach, it became known as ‘The Forman School’. Based on a true story, and featuring many non-professional actors even in leading roles, A Blonde in Love typifies the Forman School’s successful combination of fiction, documentary and comedy. Its candid portrayal of young love led to problems with the censors in Australia and Argentina. But this same candidness and humour also made the film immensely popular both domestically and internationally: it is among the most successful films ever made in the former Czechoslovakia, and was only the second Czech film to be nominated for an Academy Award.
The blonde in question is Andula, a young woman who lives and works at a shoe factory a remote little village where there are 16 women for every man. The film follows this endearing character as she naívely navigates sparse romantic terrain. The factory manager, worried about his employees’ future, organises a dance, and convinces the army to send some men. To the girls’ disappointment, it is middle-aged reservists who arrive to socialise with them. Andula’s eye turns to the band’s young pianist from Prague, and her bittersweet love story begins.
Showcasing the black humour for which Eastern Europe is rightly famed, it is the film’s most poignant situations that have the most comic potential. When Andula visits the pianist in Prague, his scolding mother won’t let them sleep together. He is forced to squeeze into his parents’ bed, where he has an endless, and endlessly comic, argument with them about who has the most duvet, who should sleep on the join in the middle of the bed, and above all, about the unwanted visitor. Unfortunately, Andula can hear their argument clearly, and is crying alone outside the door.
Second Run’s DVD comes with informative liner notes written by Michael Brooke, commenting on the film’s themes, political significance, international reception and influence. There is one significant gap in this account, though: it fails to explain the context and nature of the Czech New Wave. It is also disappointing that the DVD itself contains no special features. An interview with Miloš Forman would have offered welcome insights into life and filmmaking under communism.