22 June 2014

DVD Review - Birds, Orphans and Fools (1969)

Comedy, Drama, Fanatsy, World Cinema
Second Run
Rating: 15
DVD Release Date:
23rd June 2014 (UK)
Running Time: 78 Minutes
Juraj Jakubisko
Philippe Avron, Jirí Sýkora, Magda Vásáryová, Vtackovia
Buy:Birds, Orphans and Fools [DVD]

In order to find happiness and freedom, Yorick, Andrej, and Marta retreat into their own fantasy world, intent on escaping the real world's absurdity in Juraj Jakubisko's long-suppressed Birds, Orphans and Fools. The central ménage à trois evokes Truffaut's Jules et Jim and Godard's Bande à Part, with the Godardian influence further extended through the inclusion of a cinematic self-consciousness manifested in the director's introduction of himself at the films beginning, speaking through the voice of a child and a woman, and his showing the film crew at work. Cinematic comparisons abound throughout with the mad, surrealist universe recalling the worlds' of both Buñuel and Fellini with the most relevant comparison being the far reaching irreverance it shares with Věra Chytilová's Daisies, the image of a naked Marta surrounded by strategically placed vegetables reminding one of the infamous 'food orgy' scene condemned by Czechoslovakia's National Assembly because food should not be seen to be wasted. Sergei Paradjanov's controversial explorations of regional identity also spring to mind when watching Birds, Orphans and Fools, with Jakubisko frequently flouting the Communist rule banning references to ethnicity through his inclusion of Slovak national symbols and his continued referencing of Slovakia's national hero Milan Štefánik. The film was made in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, an invasion which brought to an end the Prague Spring of that year and its liberalisation of the country. The invasion had long lasting ramifications on Czechoslovak cinema with the banning of many films. Jakubisko's Birds, Orphans and Fools was one such film, banned for being 'decadent and harmful art' and remaining unseen in its country of origin until 1990, shortly after the Velvet Revolution ended Communist rule. The films defining scene seemingly aware of the suppression that was to come with the characters announcing "Watch out! The New Wave!" as they symbolically set fire to a mountain of celluloid strips.

Shane James

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