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THE FIREMEN’S BALL

Horí, má panenko

Milos Forman | 1967 | 73 MINS
Czechoslovakia | Subtitles
It’s the annual firemen’s ball in a small Czech town, and the organisers decide to liven up the usually dull event with a raffle and a beauty contest.

In Detail

With the former plagued by thievery and the latter by bribery, the event rapidly descends into farce, and that is before a fire breaks out.

The last film that Milos Forman (‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, ‘Amadeus’) made in his native country and language is a sparkling comedy and also one of the best showcases of the director’s uncanny ability to extract flawless performances out of an entirely non-professional cast, largely made up of actual firemen.

Although it was nominated for an Oscar, the Czech Communist authorities were so convinced the film was a satirical allegory about official incompetence that it was banned - at least until the 1989 Velvet Revolution. It’s now regarded as one of the greatest of all Czech films.

“I have always enjoyed the droll and sometimes black humour in Czech films, and this is one of the best. Apparently Forman and two regular collaborators wrote it after witnessing a real ball in a local town where they were holed up writing a screenplay. They were so transfixed by the comic possibilities that they produced this script, knowing that the natural satire would spell out the required message to their audience. Although the film was considered a deeply comic political satire at the time, with the country under communism, I saw it more as a critique of Czech officialdom, bureaucracy and blundering incompetence. It needs to be better known.” - RG

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