Larks on a String

Country

Czechoslovakia

Copyright

1969

Production year

1969

Premiere

1 February 1990

Runtime

94 min

Category

film

Genre

comedy, sad comedy

Typology

featuretheatrical distributionlong

Original title

Skřivánci na niti

Czech title

Skřivánci na niti

English title

Larks on a String

English parallel title

Skylarks on the String

Working title

Skřivánek na nitích / Skřivánci na nitích

Summary

The stories of Bohumil Hrabal were a touchstone for director Jiří Menzel. By the time he turned to Skřivánci na niti (Skylarks on the String, 1969) he had already adapted a number of short stories from the writer’s 1965 collection Inzerát na dům, ve kterém už nechci bydlet (An Advertisement for the House I No Longer Wish to Live in). After Smrt pana Baltazara (The Death of Mr Balthazar, 1965) – which served as a short film segment of the anthology feature Perličky na dně (Pearls of the Deep, 1965), a motion picture sometimes described as a manifesto of sorts for the 1960s Czechoslovak New Wave generation of directors – Menzel turned to the wartime tragicomedy Ostře sledované vlaky (Closely Watched Trains, 1966). Its success was underscored by a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Skylarks on the String was another winning collaboration between the highly regarded filmmaker and the much admired writer. The film is set in Kladno steelworks, a place where political offenders against the communist regime were sent for “temporary employment”. These might include insubordinate intellectuals, religious affiliates or small traders. The temporary workers in the film include a former state prosecutor (Leoš Suchařípa), a young Adventist named Pavel (Václav Neckář), his love and fellow inmate Jitka (Jitka Zelenohorská) and the barber Kudla (Ferdinand Krůta). All are watched over by the young guard Anděl (Jaroslav Satoranský) who has also been charged with keeping an eye on the “hill girls” – women who try to cross over the country’s mountainous western borders. Although the main protagonists are all in the same boat, friendship and mutual loyalty have their limitations when there is no chance of justice and no way to appeal for help. A fanatical leader of a communist youth organisation points out the “enemies of the regime” to visiting Pioneers (the socialists’ favoured term for “scouts) as if they are contagious exotic animals. Even though things can always get worse, life never ceases to be both strange and beautiful… Rather than being greeted by popular acclaim, plaudits from critics and awards from international film festivals, the film instead ended up in the infamous “censor’s vault”. There was little appetite for storylines exploring the theme of 1950s’ political persecution in a Czechoslovak film industry that was busy adapting itself to the demands of post-1968 “normalisation”. A scene featuring senile government minister Zdeněk Nejedlý (Vladimír Šmeral) was cut but it was still not enough to placate the censor. The film was only premiered after November 1989 and although it earned its creator a Golden Bear at the 1990 Berlin International Film Festival it was a belated satisfaction. After Skylarks on the String, Menzel was not permitted to make another film for five years. His next offering was a essentially a socialist propaganda piece about the builders of a better future, Kdo hledá zlaté dno (Who Looks for Gold, 1974).

Synopsis

The Nineteen-Fifties. Two groups of people work in the scrap-yard of the Kladno steelworks. They are female prisoners guarded by the supervisor Anděl and "volunteers", former small tradesmen, suspect intellectuals and members of the church. The women and girls, who have been imprisoned for trying to flee over the border, are working hard unloading and sorting iron scrap. The men are doing the same. They are the young Seventh Day Adventist Pavel, a Professor of Philosophy, the Barber Kudla, the Carpenter Drobeček and a former Public Prosecutor. During the shooting of an optimistic shot for a film journal the volunteer Milkman [Mlíkař] can no longer control himself and demands that the increased work norm be relaxed. Anděl is going to marry the beautiful gypsy Terezka, but he still has a long way to go winning the confidence of his shy bride. The police comes for Milkman. Tender relationships develop between the two groups of people, with Pavel falling in love with the prisoner Jitka. A fanatical female Czechoslovak Youth Movement leader shows children in the pioneer corps the enemies of the regime. The Professor asks where Milkman has been taken and is immediately arrested. Jitka and Pavel have their wedding. At the Local National Committee Jitka is represented by an old aunt, and is herself informed of her change of status by the prison director. A senile state official arrives at the workplace. Pavel asks him about the fate of Milkman and the Professor. Before he has been able to enjoy even a few moments of solitude with Jitka, Pavel is also arrested. Later, the released Jitka works in the canteen, waiting two years for her new husband to return.

Note

The film was handed over to the Central Film Distributors on the 30th of November 1969, and because it was not approved for distribution, the première did not take place until 1990.

Cast

Rudolf Hrušínský

odborový důvěrník

Václav Neckář

brigádník Pavel Hvězdář, adventista a bývalý kuchař

Jitka Zelenohorská

vězeňkyně-kopečkářka Jitka Hlaváčová, Pavlova nevěsta

Vlastimil Brodský

brigádník zvaný Doktor, bývalý profesor filozofie a knihovník

Vladimír Ptáček

brigádník Václav zvaný Mlíkař, bývalý mlékař

Ferdinand Krůta

brigádník Kudla, bývalý holič

František Řehák

brigádník Drobeček, bývalý truhlář

Leoš Suchařípa

brigádník, bývalý prokurátor

Eugen Jegorov

brigádník, bývalý saxofonista

Naďa Urbánková

vězeňkyně-kopečkářka Lenka

Věra Křesadlová

vězeňkyně-kopečkářka

Jaroslav Satoranský

strážný vězeňkyň Anděl

Jiřina Štěpničková

Hvězdářová, Pavlova matka

Karel Mareš

závodní

Ladislav Šimek

starší příslušník SNB

Otakar Brousek

velitel trestnice

Míla Myslíková

vězeňkyně-kopečkářka Elza

Věra Ferbasová

vězeňkyně-kopečkářka

Vladimír Šmeral

senilní hodnostář Zdeněk Nejedlý

Jiřina Třebická

Drobečkova manželka

Stella Zázvorková

umývačka nádobí v závodní kuchyni

Tereza Bariová

cikánka Terezka, Andělova novomanželka

Věra Galatíková

svazačka, vedoucí pionýrů

Vlasta Jelínková

Thimingová, Pavlova teta

Zora Jiráková

Kudlova manželka

Gustav Oplustil

filmový režisér

Miloš Kohout

filmový kameraman

Zdeněk Svěrák

delegát ÚRO

Eva Blažková

vězeňkyně-kopečkářka

Zdena Burdová

vězeňkyně-kopečkářka

Eva Rubínová

vězeňkyně-kopečkářka

Jiří Menzel

trestanec ve výtahu dolu

Bořivoj Fiala

funkcionář

Oldřich Janovský

funkcionář

Karel Hovorka

brigádník

Bohumil Koška

brigádník

Miroslav Saic

brigádník

Alois Vachek

brigádník

Miloslav Balcar

řidič černého auta/vedoucí postřikovací party

Hana Talpová

žena doprovázející Zdeňka Nejedlého

Jan Teplý

oddávající úředník

Jindřiška Gabriela Preissová

úřednice na svatbě

Rudolf Kalina

koupající se brigádník

Jiří Kasík

příslušník SNB v civilu

Antonín Gondolán

cikánský hudebník na svatbě

František Gondolán

cikánský hudebník na svatbě

Jiří Gondolán

cikánský hudebník na svatbě

Vojtěch Gondolán

cikánský hudebník na svatbě

Ondřej Gondolán

cikánský hudebník na svatbě

Rudolf Pešta

hudebník

Antonín Samler

strážný

Jan Vala

strážný

Jarmila Gybasová

strážná

Eva Vejlová

strážná

Helena Velenovská

strážná

Jitka Molavcová

jásající dívka v davu

Marie Benetková

svlečená vězeňkyně

Ivana Horká

svlečená vězeňkyně

Eva Podzimková

svlečená vězeňkyně

H. Cermanová

svlečená vězeňkyně

H. Ruprichová

svlečená vězeňkyně

J. Šprachtová

svlečená vězeňkyně

Dubbing

Jiří Menzel

hlas ze závodního rozhlasu

Crew and creators

Second Unit Director

Miloš Kohout

Assistant Director

Josef Sandr

Script Supervisor

Marie Zahradníková

Based on

Bohumil Hrabal (Inzerát na dům, ve kterém už nechci bydlet – povídky ze sbírky)

Script Editor

Václav Nývlt

Director of Photography

Jaromír Šofr

Second Unit Photography

Petr Čech

Camera Operator

Jiří Kučera

Production Designer

Oldřich Bosák

Assistent Production Designer

Bohumil Nový

Set Designer

Vladimír Mácha, Rudolf Beneš, Václav Kozel

Assistant Film Editor

Eva Horázná

Sound Designer

Jiří Pavlík

Production Manager

Karel Kochman

Unit Production Manager

Karel Škop, Jaroslav Koucký

Unit Production Manager

Taťána Bargárová

Cooperation

Josef Janoušek (fotograf)

Music

Music Composed by

Jiří Šust

Music Performed by

FISYO (Music Conducted by Štěpán Koníček)

Songs

Budujeme /Teď když máme, co jsme chtěli/

Songwriter Václav Dobiáš

Pro Jarmilku

Songwriter Karel Vacek

Holubička

Songwriter Jiří Šust
Writer of Lyrics Soňa Nová
Singer dětský sbor

Noční motýl

Songwriter Johann Strauss ml.
Writer of Lyrics K. M. Walló
Singer František Řehák

Naše je heslo: Vždy buď připraven

Songwriter S. Děškin
Writer of Lyrics Josef Urban
Singer dětský sbor

Šaj, šaj, šaj, ša-la-li

Singer Tereza Bariová

Production info

Original Title

Skřivánci na niti

Czech Title

Skřivánci na niti

English Title

Larks on a String

English Parallel Title

Skylarks on the String

Working Title

Skřivánek na nitích / Skřivánci na nitích

Category

film

Typology

featuretheatrical distribution

Genre

comedy, sad comedy

Origin country

Czechoslovakia

Copyright

1969

Production Year

1969

Production specifications

literary Screenplay approved 17 December 1968
start of filming 14 April 1969
end of filming 12 August 1969
projection approval 30 October 1969 (neschváleno do distribuce)

Premiere

premiere 1 February 1990 /unsuitable for youths/
renewed premiere 24 February 2022 /suitable for all ages without limit/

Studio

Barrandov

Distribution

Ústřední půjčovna filmů (původní 1990), Národní filmový archiv (obnovená 2022)

Creative Group

Tvůrčí skupina Juráček – Kučera, Pavel Juráček (vedoucí dramaturg tvůrčí skupiny), Jaroslav Kučera (vedoucí výroby tvůrčí skupiny)

Technical info

Duration typology

feature film

Duration in minutes

94 min

Original length in metres

2 531 meters

Distribution carrier

16mm, 35mm, DCP 2-D, BRD

Aspect ratio

1:1,66

Colour

colour

Sound

sound

Sound system/format

mono

Versions

Czech

Dialogue languages

Czech, Romany

Subtitles languages

without subtitles

Opening/End credits languages

Czech

Awards

Vítěz

Event: Anketa filmových kritiků o nejlepší česko-slovenský hraný film století

1998
Praha / Czech Republic

Vítěz

Exhibition: Dny českého a slovenského filmu Bratislava

1990
Bratislava / Czechoslovakia
Jaromír Šofr

Vítěz

Festival: 40. mezinárodní filmový festival Berlín

1990
Západní Berlín / Federal Republic of Germany

Vítěz

Exhibition: Dny českého a slovenského filmu Bratislava

1990
Bratislava / Czechoslovakia

Vítěz

Event: Cena československé filmové kritiky za nejlepší český a slovenský film roku 1989

1990
Praha / Czechoslovakia

Vítěz

Festival: 4. festival českých a slovenských filmů FINÁLE Plzeň

1990
Plzeň / Czechoslovakia

Vítěz

Festival: 40. mezinárodní filmový festival Berlín

1990
Západní Berlín / Federal Republic of Germany