Happy End

Oldřich Lipský, 1967



The first collaboration between the director Oldřich Lipský and the screenwriter Miloš Macourek became a comedy experimenting with narrative chronology. The story goes backwards so that the protagonist – the butcher Bedřich Frydrych (Vladimír Menšík) – comes to life after he has been condemned and executed for the murder of his unfaithful wife (Jaroslava Obermaierová). Thereafter he relishes telling viewers the story of his marital relationship right up to his meeting with the beautiful Julie. The titular happy ending is such that Bedřich (who “in real life” saves Julie from a fire) throws the young woman into the flames and falls into the arms of his previous girlfriend for a final kiss… Neither Lipský nor Macourek ever repeated such a radical experiment with the rules of storytelling. Nonetheless, the motif of “mechanical changes in causational circumstances” can be found in Lipský’s filmography in the plots of films like Zabil jsem Einsteina, pánové… (I Killed Einstein, Gentlemen!, 1969) and Jáchyme, hoď ho do stroje! (Joachim, Put Him into the Machine!, 1974). The comic effect works in that the characters go backwards, with people “vomiting” their food while eating and an infant supplying its mother with milk. All of this can become boring for the viewer after a while – unlike the speeches of the actors, which are often very funny in reverse order. What remains remarkable about Happy End, however, is the basic idea of working backwards so that the audience comes away with something that is the exact opposite of the original meaning: a dismembered wife is “assembled,” death appears as a birth, a mother-in-law’s funeral becomes a “delivery” in a coffin, etc. First and foremost, however, the tragic – and banal – story of a cuckolded husband-murderer changes into an extraordinary comedy with a happy ending. The internal order of the narrative is maintained by Bedřich’s naïve commentary, which confirms the naturalness and correctness of events on the screen. Part of the elaborate visual qualities of Happy End owe a lot to the important works of the legendary cameraman and special effects expert Vladimír Novotný, as well as working with the legacy of silent slapstick. At the time, the film was not well received by critics or audiences (all though it did get good reviews in the contemporary American press).
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About a film

film_production_year 1967
film_countries Czechoslovakia
film_genres experimental, comedy
film_form feature
film_duration 69 min
film_director Oldřich Lipský
film_cast Vladimír Menšík, Jaroslava Obermaierová, Josef Abrhám, Bohuš Záhorský, Stella Zázvorková
film_director_of_photography Vladimír Novotný
film_screenplay Miloš Macourek, Oldřich Lipský
film_film_editor Miroslav Hájek
film_production_designer Karel Škvor
film_music_composed_by Vlastimil Hála
film_sound_designer Josef Vlček