Party and the Guests

Jan Němec, 1965

Film at Filmový přehled


One of the most celebrated titles of the Czechoslovak New Wave. This 1966 picture was director Jan Němec’s second feature film following Démanty noci (Diamonds of the Night, 1964). Following that existential wartime drama, written in collaboration with author and screenwriter Arnošt Lustig, Němec teamed up with Ester Krumbachová for his second film. This screenwriter, author and designer was a key figure in the New Wave, which brought forth a dynamic and liberated aesthetic into the country’s cinema output. Her collaboration with director Věra Chytilová continued beyond the 1960s era, during which time Krumbachová also worked with Němec as a costume designer in Démanty noci, as well as on the scripts for Mučedníci lásky (Martyrs of Love, 1966) and O slavnosti a hostech (The Party and the Guests, 1966). The main characters in this loosely flowing tale are a group of people who, on an ideal summer’s day, head out to the birthday party of a highly-placed important personage. The jovial host presents a facade of well-being, but the open-air celebrations are disrupted by a seemingly insignificant minor annoyance. One of the guests – a brooding husband – leaves. This leads to a manhunt, led by Rudolf, a member of the host’s security detail. A hunting dog and most guests also join in. The reason for the fuss is that the missing guest has broken an unwritten rule of this micro-society, based on apathy, blasé lies, and a hushed-up sense of guilt. Němec’s minimalist story of escape can be read in various ways (primarily as a political allegory about the various masked forces pulling the strings behind-the-scenes, willing to liquidate anyone unwilling to partake in the “collective” celebration of the regime). During its premiere, the film offended regime sensibilities and was subsequently even subjected to a parliamentary inquiry. After briefly being banned outright, during the 1970s and 80s the film disappeared into the censor’s “vault”. The film features many noted Czech intellectuals of the day. Its Kafka-esque tones brought it much international acclaim.
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Film data

About a film

Production year 1965
Countries Czechoslovakia
Categories film
Genres allegory
Form feature
Duration 71 min
Director Jan Němec
Cast Ivan Vyskočil, Jan Klusák, Jiří Němec, Pavel Bošek, Karel Mareš
Director of photography Jaromír Šofr
Screenplay Ester Krumbachová, Jan Němec
Editor Miroslav Hájek
Production designer Oldřich Bosák
Artist Ester Krumbachová
Music Karel Mareš
Sound designer Jiří Pavlík