Signum Laudis

Martin Hollý, 1980



Directed by Martin Hollý, Signum laudis (1980) is a drama set during the First World War, whose central protagonist is a fanatical commander who has no qualms about sending his soldiers off to die in the name of victory for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Corporal Hoferik is even decorated with the Signum laudis, the Austrian Military Medal of Merit. Decorated or not, the corporal’s subordinates despise Hoferik – and when push comes to shove, the corporal’s superiors begin to feel the same way, preferring to end the desperate situation of the troops on the Russian front via a timely surrender. But capitulation is intolerable for the corporal. And so the only path towards surrender and capture by the enemy is through the death of Hoferika, who is completely mystified about why he has been subjected to a court martial… Screenwriter Jiří Křižan (along with Vladimír Kalina, who devised the story) played a major part in ensuring the success of this psychological drama, replete with the theme of futile obsession about a perceived military “mission”. Asides from this work, Křižan’s 1970s filmography is also dominated by Stíny horkého léta (Shadows of a Hot Summer, 1977) directed by František Vláčil. Featuring a terrific leading performance from Slovak actor Vlado Müller, Signum laudis was awarded the Grand Prize at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. Despite the film’s subtext being critical of the authoritarian regime of the time, screenwriter Křižan was nonetheless nominated for the Klement Gottwald State Award. But the writer ultimately declined this award, because it was named after a man who had signed his father’s death sentence. This gesture inevitably meant that the screenwriter was blocked from future work at Prague's Barrandov film studios, but he was able to have scripts filmed at Gottwaldov Film Studios (today Zlín) and in Slovakia. Křižan also collaborated with director Martin Hollý on Mrtví učia živých (The Dead Teach the Living, 1983) and Tichá bolest (Silent Pain, 1990). Despite the film being a cooperation between Barrandov and Slovakia’s Bratislava Film Studios, it is primarily Czech actors that appear in Signum laudis. Josef Bláha plays commander König, Ilja Prachař the would-be general Berger, and Radovan Lukavský general Gross.
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About a film

film_production_year 1980
film_countries Czechoslovakia
film_genres drama
film_form feature
film_duration 85 min
film_director Martin Hollý
film_cast Vlado Müller, Josef Bláha, Ilja Prachař, Radovan Lukavský, Jiří Kodet
film_director_of_photography František Uldrich
film_screenplay Vladimír Kalina, Jiří Křižan
film_film_editor Ivana Kačírková
film_production_designer Jiří Hlupý
film_music_composed_by Zdeněk Liška
film_sound_designer Alexandr Vrbata