Calamity

comedy

Typology

feature

Czech title

Kalamita

Runtime

96

Country

Czechoslovakia

Copyright

1980

Production year

1980

Premiere

29.01.1982

Language version

Czech

Director

Věra Chytilová

Screenplay

Josef Šilhavý, Věra Chytilová

Screenstory

Josef Šilhavý

Summary

Věra Chytilová confirmed her outstanding form in the 1980s with the stylised pictures Faunovo velmi pozdní odpoledne (Faun's Delayed Afternoon) (1983) and Kopytem sem, kopytem tam (Tainted Horseplay) (1988). Building on her work in the 1970s, at the start of the decade the award-winning filmmaker also shot Kalamita (Calamity), a comedy with a casual tone. As with Chytilová’s other work, the story of a young train driver was the result of compromises the director had won in defiance of Barrandov’s dramaturges. The studio had offered her the project as there was little interest in the material in view of the tough winter exterior shoot. The director rewrote Josef Šilhavý’s screenplay, turning a “consolidation” story of university students finding a new meaning of life among railway workers into a bitterly amusing parable about contemporary Czechoslovakia. This meant the film’s genesis faced dangers not only from the unpredictable elements but also censorship and pressure. It was released without an advertising campaign and was eventually banned in Prague after drawing large audiences. Instead of a snowy idyll Chytilová, whose father owned a train station pub, produced an authentic work filled with ambiguous anti-regime “catchphrases”. Not only the hero Honza Dostál but several other characters found themselves in “calamitous” life situations that are revealed as a common – societal – problem in the final scene in a snow-covered train. Cinematographer Ivan Šlapeta and editor Jiří Brožek made a huge contribution to the film’s edgy, provocatively unpolished form. Chytilová gave the then 23-year-old Bolek Polívka his first big break in the main role. Alongside him as the unscrupulous Majka was Polívka’s colleague from the Divadlo na provázku theatre, Dagmar Bláhová, who had excelled in the director’s Hra o jablko (Apple Game) (1976). Chytilová’s interest in actors used to improvisation from small theatres outside Prague (Brno’s Divadlo na provázku and Ypsilonka, originally from Liberec) was confirmed by the casting of Jana Synková, Jaroslava Kretschmerová, Jan Schmid and Jiří Pecha.

Synopsis

Honza Dostál leaves his studies at university in order to fulfil his dream to become an engine driver. He is a bit naive, but ambitious. He refuses to work with his father in a railway station pub, and puts in an application in the Czech railways office. The entrance health check almost foils his plans, as the careful Honza hesitates over the colour test. With hands full of regulations and a new uniform he walks to the lodging house. He finds his new roommate red handed, but the man only suggests making a "time plan" for female visitors. Honza gets injured while shopping. A girl, whom he met before in the train, dresses his finger. Majka is a nurse at surgery and Honza gladly accepts her offer to come again to the surgery to have his wound dressed. When he comes, the girl is not on duty and he falls into the hands of a resolute head physician. He sleeps over but it gets by because the superintendent recognizes, by his surname, that he is from an old railwayman's family. Majka rides on sled professionally and she is not enchanted by Honza's job. But she hopes to get better performance in sport thanks to the relationship. Her competitor allegedly got better thanks to an active sexual life. Honza is offended. He is chased by the conductor, Květa and the ageing head physician. Although he is stuck with the physician in a snow storm overnight at a mountain cottage, Honza resists and he runs away. He finds Majka again. She takes him to her father, a forester. While he is politely listening to an expert explanation, Majka goes off with a sociologist, Havránek. Honza runs behind the car and ends up in a creek. The Samaritan Květa is warming him up with her own body after the plunge in ice cold water. One day Honza sets out for his first independent train drive. Majka also gets on the railcar. Havránek, disappointed her and she just rushes for races. She makes up that she only wanted to awake Honza's jealousy. The railcar gets stuck in a snowdrift and then it is snowed in by avalanche. The passengers are imprisoned in the railcar. Honza, together with his two colleagues try to dig out from the snow. The passengers start quarrelling, some get into panic. Then, all of a sudden, light comes through the window. A skier from outside penetrated the mass of fallen snow. The egocentric Majka steels the skis of the rescuer and she gets away. It is difficult to get through the soft snow without skies. But in the end, people succeed. They make a chain of human bodies and first children can crawl out.

Note

The film was finalised on the 10th of April 1980, but it was not approved. Further editing was finalised on the 8th of June 1981 and the screening was approved on the 12th of November 1981. Copyright stated on the film copy is 1980.

Cast

Boleslav Polívka

železničář Honza Dostál

Dagmar Bláhová

zdravotní sestra Majka Kopecká

Jana Synková

primářka

Jaroslava Kretschmerová

průvodčí Květa

Václav Švorc

náčelník stanice

Antonín Kubálek

Honzův otec

Štěpán Kučera

syn řezníka

Václav Helšus

strojvůdce Lojza

Jan Schmid

sociolog Havránek

Pavel Zedníček

zachránce Horský

Laco Déczi

strojmistr Douda, Honzův přítel

Dana Balounová

uklízečka

Boris Rösner

číšník ve vlaku

Jana Březinová

zákaznice s dietou

Eva Vidlařová

řeznice Eliška

Daniel Dítě

trenér

Zdeněk Dítě

lesník, Majčin otec

Karel Novák

slepec

Zuzana Schmidová

manželka slepce

Petr Kratochvíl

železniční opravář

Ladislav Gzela

starý muž

Petr Rýdel

strojvedoucí Baláš

Pavel Havránek

muž ve svetru ve vlaku

Lubomír Tlalka

Kadrnožka

František Čužna

železničář

Jiří Prýmek

výpravčí

Jiří Pecha

hráč karet

Jan Vávra

voják

Jiří Koutný

rozčílený muž

Viktor Bejbl

sportovec

Drahoslava Landsmanová

elegantní dáma

Leonka Bernátová

vnučka Leonka, holčička ve vlaku

Miloslav Kopečný

železničář

Josef Vondráček

rozvádějící se dělník

Ondřej Havelka

posunovač

Miroslav Kořínek

posunovač

Jan Panenka

posunovač

Zdeněk Skalický

posunovač

Tereza Kučerová

dívka v jídelním voze

Dubbing

Milada Ježková

hlas staré ženy

Crew and creators

Second Unit Director

Mojmír Ticháček

Assistant Director

Zdeněk Pazdírek, Eliška Vojtová, Jana Goetzová

Screenstory

Josef Šilhavý

Shooting Script

Věra Chytilová

Script Editor

Pavel Hajný

Second Unit Photography

Michal Kulič, Richard Valenta

Camera Operator

Jiří Maxa

Production Designer

Bohumil Pokorný

Set Designer

Miroslav Fára, Martin Růžička, Josef Večerek, Jiří Žůček

Costume Designer

Helena Anýžová

Film Editor

Jiří Brožek

Sound Designer

Jiří Kříž

Production Manager

Vladimír Vojta

Unit Production Manager

Ivo Pitrák, Milan Brabec, Hana Jarošová

Unit Production Manager

Juraj Zach, Jan Kočí

Cooperation

Lidmila Eybergerová, Zdeněk Dukát, Barbora Brožková, Eva Horázná, Růžena Hejsková, Petr Pištěk, Petr Kastner

Music

Music Composed by

Laco Déczi

Music Performed by

FISYO

Music Conducted by

Štěpán Koníček (FISYO)

Songs

Nebudem, nebudem se spolu přít, Den je krásný, Prijdi, Jano, k nam

Songwriter

Laco Déczi (Nebudem, nebudem se spolu přít), Jiří Bažant (Den je krásný), Jiří Malásek (Den je krásný), Vlastimil Hála (Den je krásný), lidová píseň (Prijdi, Jano, k nam)

Writer of Lyrics

Jiří Šebánek (Nebudem, nebudem se spolu přít), Vratislav Blažek (Den je krásný)

Singer

ženský hlas (Nebudem, nebudem se spolu přít), Jana Synková (Den je krásný), Jaroslava Kretschmerová (Prijdi, Jano, k nam)

Production info

Original Title

Kalamita

English Title

Calamity

Copyright

1980

Production Year

1980

Premiere

29.01.1982

Creative Group

Miroslav Hladký

Technical info

Format

35mm , Betacam, DVD

Versions

Czech