The Valley of the Bees

drama, historical

Typology

feature

Czech title

Údolí včel

Runtime

96

Country

Czechoslovakia

Copyright

1967

Production year

1967

Premiere

17.05.1968

Language version

Czech

Director

František Vláčil

Screenplay

Vladimír Körner, František Vláčil

Screenstory

Vladimír Körner

Summary

The partnership between director František Vláčil and screenwriter Vladimír Körner yielded films including Adelheid (Adelheid, 1969), Pověst o stříbrné jedli (The Legend of the Silver Fir, 1973) and Stín kapradiny (The Shadow of a Ferns, 1984). But it is the historical drama Údolí včel (The Valley of the Bees, 1967) that is widely regarded as the pair’s greatest collaborative achievement. Released in cinemas shortly after Vláčil’s highly acclaimed Marketa Lazarová (Marketa Lazarová, 1967), The Valley of the Bees came about as a result of efforts to reuse the props and costumes from the director’s previous opus – hitherto the most expensive Czechoslovak film of all time. Körner’s compact concept is very different from the ambitious, expansive adaptation of author Vladislav Vančura’s historical novel Marketa Lazarová. While the former film told the story of Christianity’s battle with paganism, The Valley of the Bees is more of a timeless picture representing a battle between asceticism and freedom. Similarly to Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (Sedmá pečeť, 1957), the film is highly philosophical; a non-romanticised view of the Middle Ages, which, instead of putting forward battle scenes, focuses on the internal conflicts of its characters. The protagonists of the story are two Teutonic Knights of the Cross, Armin von Heide and his Bohemian protégé Ondřej. The young aristocrat, whose father appointed him to the Order in childhood, escapes the castle where he grew up indoctrinated in asceticism and prayer. But the fanatical Armin keeps his companion under surveillance, following him to his hometown of Vlkov, and thwarting Ondřej’s attempts to lead a happy life with the lovely Lenora. The return of the desperate Ondřej to the Order as the only possible home that remains available to him was viewed by “normalisation” era censors as so controversial that for a 1977 TV version, they created a notably different “new” version with a truncated ending. This visually polished piece stars Petr Čepek as Ondřej, and Jan Kačer as Armin. Unlike Marketa Lazarová , the film did not find favour with critics and audiences. But the film has since been reappraised, and is today widely viewed as a Czechoslovak film classic.

Synopsis

It is the second half of the 13th century. The widowed master of a yeoman's stronghold, Vlkov, marries young Lenora. His twelve-year old son from his first marriage, Ondřej, gives his future "mother" a basket as a wedding gift with bats hidden among white flowers. The father, blinded by fury, flings the boy against a wall. Kneeling over the bleeding limp body, he then prays to the Virgin Mary, begging for the boy's recovery and promising he would give Ondřej to her service. The recovered boy is then taken to the North, to a castle, which is a site of a powerful crusader's order, its members eschewing women as well as all other profane temptations. Ondřej is befriended by Armin von Heide, an ascetic and fanatic who exaggerates the abstention almost masochistically. Years pass and Ondřej has become an adult. In the time of fasting, the order knight Rotgier escapes from the castle and Armin pursues him with the other men. Ondřej runs into the refugee by accident and their rushed talk ignites desire for freedom in him as well. Although Rotgier is caught and killed by a pack of hounds, Ondřej, too, decides to run away. He reaches as far as to Vlkov stronghold, where the widowed Lenora lives. The two people become close and decide to marry. Armin, following Ondřej close upon his heels, sneaks around the stronghold and enters it on the very wedding day. Lenora does not want to chase the unknown guest away and even kisses him in a friendly manner. In the evening, the fanatical man invades Lenora's bedroom and cuts her throat. Ondřej lets him be worried to death by dogs and he penitently returns to the site of the order.

Film online

Cast

Petr Čepek

Ondřej z Vlkova

Jan Kačer

Armin von Heide

Zdeněk Kryzánek

pán z Vlkova, Ondřejův otec

Věra Galatíková

Lenora, Ondřejova nevlastní matka

Miroslav Macháček

hnědý mnich

Josef Somr

řádový rytíř Rotgier

Václav Kotva

vesničan

Petr Sedlák

uhlíř

Jana Hlaváčková

slepá dívka

Antonín Pražák

lovec

Michal Kožuch

vesnický kněz Blasius

Jana Hájková

Lenora jako dívka

Zdeněk Sedláček

Ondřej jako dvanáctiletý

František Husák

šedý mnich

Vladimír Navrátil

mnich Sibald

Zdeněk Chlum

hudebník

Jiří Stivín

hudebník

V. Mach

hudebník

Dubbing

Vlastimil Hašek

hlas uhlíře

Pavel Landovský

hlas lovce

Vítězslav Vejražka

hlas kněze Blasia

Zdeněk Řehoř

hlas mnicha

Crew and creators

Second Unit Director

Aleš Dospiva

Assistant Director

Jan Kratochvíl, Eva Kubesová

Script Editor

Antonín Máša

Second Unit Photography

Jiří Macák

Camera Operator

Petr Pešek

Production Designer

Jindřich Goetz

Set Designer

Ivan Ernyei, Oldřich Halaza, Jiří Cvrček

Costume Designer

Theodor Pištěk ml.

Film Editor

Miroslav Hájek

Sound Designer

František Fabián

Production Manager

Věra Kadlecová

Unit Production Manager

Miroslav Dousek, Václav Havlík

Unit Production Manager

Vladimír Tišer

Cooperation

Eva Janíková, Vilemína Binterová

Music

Music Composed by

Zdeněk Liška

Music Performed by

FISYO

Music Conducted by

František Belfín (FISYO)

Production info

Original Title

Údolí včel

English Title

The Valley of the Bees

Copyright

1967

Production Year

1967

Premiere

17.05.1968

Creative Group

Novotný – Kubala, Bedřich Kubala, Ladislav Novotný

Technical info

Format

Betacam, DVD

Versions

Czech

Awards

Vítěz

Event: Peněžitá odměna za film v rámci hodnocení produkce Filmového studia Barrandov v roce 1967

1968
Praha / Czechoslovakia
František Vláčil

Vítěz

Event: Peněžitá odměna za film v rámci hodnocení produkce Filmového studia Barrandov v roce 1967

1968
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Vladimír Körner

Vítěz

Event: Peněžitá odměna za film v rámci hodnocení produkce Filmového studia Barrandov v roce 1967

1968
Praha / Czechoslovakia
František Uldrich