The Ear

drama

Typology

feature

Czech title

Ucho

Runtime

94

Country

Czechoslovakia

Copyright

1970

Production year

1969

Premiere

01.01.1990

Language version

Czech

Director

Karel Kachyňa

Screenplay

Jan Procházka, Karel Kachyňa

Screenstory

Jan Procházka

Summary

One of the most absorbing films to emerge from the pairing of screenwriter Jan Procházka and director Karel Kachyňa. Ucho (The Ear, 1970) is a skilfully made psychological drama, reflecting similar characteristics to the surge of quality Czechoslovak films made during the liberal climate of the New Wave in the mid to late 1960s. As with other titles from this time, Ucho (The Ear) is critical of the methodology of totalitarianism – consequently it was only distributed to Czech audiences in 1990. Essentially only two people feature in this intimate drama – husband and wife Ludvík and Anna, who have become accustomed to the constant monitoring and eavesdropping conducted by state authorities. Indeed, they even have a prying “ear” in their home listening to their every conversation. But, one night, after returning home to their villa from a government reception, the ministerial deputy and his wife are gripped by panic. For they deduce that Ludvík is set to be arrested because of a critical report which he helped to write. An anxious and desperate night ensues, as the couple break down their own relationship – one full of compromises, disappointments, and lack of love. Morning brings fatigue, and a terrifying sobering reality: it isn’t over; the nightmare continues. Ludvík’s ministerial boss has been liquidated, and now he is set to take his place... Kachyňa’s film makes full use of the traits of the tense psychological thriller, evoking paranoia. The intimate setting is only broken by an “innocent” visit by two secret police, and flashbacks to a government social gathering. While the film can be viewed as a comment on the oppression of the Stalinist 1950s, its rich style elevates Ucho to a more abstract and timeless critique. The film itself caused many headaches for its authors during the “normalisation” era: until his early death in 1971, writer Jan Procházka found himself blacklisted. Kachyňa, meanwhile, while able to continue directing, was forced to make creative compromises. Radoslav Brzobohatý and Jiřina Bohdalová, offer gripping performances as the two main characters – but they would never be presented with such juicy roles again. In 1983, Pavel Kohout re-filmed Procházka’s script (as Das Ohr) for Austrian TV station ZDF/ORF. Kohout selected Vienna Burgtheater actors Joachim Bissmeier and Gertraud Jesserer (with colleague Pavel Landovský playing one of the secret police).

Synopsis

In the midst of a July night, sometimes in the 1950s, deputy minister Ludvík and his wife Anna return home from a governmental reception. The woman is drunk, feels offended that the husband forgot about the tenth anniversary of their marriage, and keeps gibing, trying to stir a quarrel. In front of their villa, they cannot find the keys. As Ludvík climbs over the gate, Anna finds out it is unlocked and discovers other strange things. Electricity and phone in the house are cut off and there are some strange men moving around in their garden. Ludvík recalls the discussions at the reception where he learned that his superior minister and several other men were arrested. Horror begins to seize him as he realizes that he himself helped to write a critical report on brickyards, which was possibly the cause of the arrest. He begins to destroy documents, tearing some, flushing others down the toilet and burning yet more. The tense situation results in a fight between the husband and wife, with Anna reproaching Ludvík for his unscrupulous careerism. Then a group of secret policemen rings the bell by the gate. Anna prepares things for Ludvík to take to prison. However, the agents did not come to arrest him and Ludvík, out of gratitude, plays host to them. When the men leave, the couple finds out that they "only" came to complete installation of a monitoring system, having been interrupted by Ludvík's and Anna's preliminary arrival. It is morning, the husband and wife, exhausted by fear and stirred emotions, are having breakfast. The phone rings and Ludvík is told he has been appointed minister.

Note

The film was not approved for the distribution in 1969; its première was not held until January 1990.

Film online

Cast

Radoslav Brzobohatý

Ludvík, náměstek ministra

Jiřina Bohdalová

Anna, Ludvíkova žena

Jiří Císler

tajný Standa, Ludvíkův známý z vojny

Miloslav Holub

ruský generál

Milica Kolofíková

žena na recepci

Alois Mottl

tajný

Josef Šulc

tajný

Jan Teplý

tajný

Jindřich Narenta

ministrův tajemník

Ivan Palúch

důstojník StB

Daniela Pokorná

Vlasta z Broumova

Lubor Tokoš

ministr

Karel Vlček

pořadatel

Alice Auspergerová

mladá Ruska

Jan Bartoš

inženýr

Ladislav Krečmer

plukovník

Jana Hana Duffková

žena na recepci

Galina Kopaněva

žena na recepci

Zdeněk Hradilák

muž s vázou

Miroslav Nesvadba

Bedřich

Vladimír Zátka

Ludvík, syn Anny a Ludvíka

Senta Wollnerová

dáma

Babický

řidič Vláďa

Hanuš

řidič Jindřich

Vondráček

zaměstnanec ministerstva

Tlapák

mladík

Popov

pobočník generála

Crew and creators

Second Unit Director

Milada Mikešová

Assistant Director

Karel Brchel, Jaroslava Čapková

Screenstory

Jan Procházka

Shooting Script

Karel Kachyňa

Second Unit Photography

Adolf Hejzlar

Camera Operator

Jan Hanzal

Production Designer

Oldřich Okáč

Art Director

Ester Krumbachová

Set Designer

Čestmír Diviš, Jiří Žebrakovský, Ladislav Winkelhöfer

Costume Designer

Ester Krumbachová

Film Editor

Miroslav Hájek

Sound Designer

Jiří Lenoch

Production Manager

Karel Vejřík

Unit Production Manager

Rudolf Mos, Ladislav Dražan

Unit Production Manager

Antonín Šimral

Cooperation

Vilemína Binterová, Jitka Šulcová, Jan Kňákal

Music

Music Composed by

Svatopluk Havelka

Selected Music

Ferdinand Heller (Česká beseda)

Music Performed by

Kühnův smíšený sbor, FISYO

Music Conducted by

Pavel Kühn (Kühnův smíšený sbor), František Belfín (FISYO)

Production info

Original Title

Ucho

English Title

The Ear

Copyright

1970

Production Year

1969

Premiere

01.01.1990

Creative Group

Švabík – Procházka, Jan Procházka, Erich Švabík

Technical info

Format

Betacam, DVD

Versions

Czech

Awards

Vítěz

Festival: 4. festival českých a slovenských filmů FINÁLE Plzeň

1990
Plzeň / Czechoslovakia

Vítěz

Exhibition: Dny českého a slovenského filmu Bratislava

1990
Bratislava / Czechoslovakia
Jiřina Bohdalová

Vítěz

Exhibition: Dny českého a slovenského filmu Bratislava

1990
Bratislava / Czechoslovakia
Jan Procházka

Vítěz

Exhibition: Dny českého a slovenského filmu Bratislava

1990
Bratislava / Czechoslovakia