The Death of the Beautiful Deer

narrative

Typology

feature

Czech title

Smrt krásných srnců

Runtime

91

Country

Czechoslovakia

Copyright

1986

Production year

1986

Premiere

01.09.1987

Language version

Czech

Director

Karel Kachyňa

Screenplay

Karel Kachyňa, Dušan Hamšík

Summary

Ota Pavel’s autobiographical book, Smrt krásných srnců (Death of the Beautiful Deer, 1971), offers seven short stories depicting the author’s happy childhood prior to World War Two and the occupation of Czechoslovakia that dramatically affected the fate of his mixed, Jewish family. In 1982, director Miroslav Balajka adapted the short story Králíci s moudrýma očima (The Rabbits with Wise Eyes) as a TV film. Kapři pro Wehrmacht (Carps for the Wehrmacht) had already served as the material for a film by Prague FAMU film school student Karel Smyczek in 1975, and in the same year his fellow student at the school, Vladimír Merta, adapted the short story Smrt krásných srnců. This story of a brave Jewish father, who breaks all Nazi regulations in his way to trespass and hunt a deer to feed his two concentration camp-bound sons, also served as an inspiration for the eponymous 1986 feature film made by Karel Kachyňa. However, the experienced director and screenwriter expanded the narrative by taking motifs from other short stories by Pavel. The protagonist, the father Leo Popper, an enthusiastic fisherman and nature lover, works as a successful traveling salesman for the Electrolux company. But the Nazis turn the lives of the Poppers upside down. It is a tragedy: Leo is dismissed from his job and he and his wife and three sons are ordered to leave Prague. When the two older sons are about to be transported to a concentration camp, Leo takes the decision to risk his life for his malnourished offspring: with the help of a wild Alsatian dog borrowed from a friend – the ferryman Prošek – he hunts deer through the forests that surround his beloved Berounka river. Now only the German patrols stand between him and a return home with his illicit provisions… The poetic hyperbole of Kachyňa´s feature blurs the boundary between the symbolic gesture of resistance and the real act of “fattening” the sons weakened by the misery of war. The overall effect is reinforced by the beautiful camera work of Vladimír Smutný and the masterful acting of Karel Heřmánek (Leo), Marta Vančurová (the mother) and Rudolf Hrušínský (Prošek). Popper’s two older sons are portrayed by Jiří Stach and Jan Jirásek, while Marek Vatler plays the part of the youngest son, referred to as “Prdelka” (“Little buttocks”, a term of affection used by Czechs for small children).

Synopsis

Leo Popper is a passionate fisherman. He most prefers to spend his time with his wife and three little sons by the river Berounka, fishing and observing nature. He especially loves female roe deers, admiring their beautiful eyes. He would never be able to hurt them. But the five-member family must eat, and Leo thus begins with the company Elektrolux as a commercial traveller. He does not do well in the beginning but one day, he happens to save a factory owner called Studený from drowning. Studený not only buys a vacuum cleaner and a fridge from Leo out of gratitude but also recommends him to all his acquaintances. Leo soon becomes the best salesman. He travels throughout the republic with his friend Hejtmánek, who he invites to collaborate and they are increasingly successful with their unclichéd ideas. The two friends and colleagues sometimes get into trouble during their love affairs. They are both handsome and there is thus no lack of adventure. They earn lots of money and Leo eventually fulfills his dream: he buys himself a pond. It is, however, the late 1930s and also the end of the independent republic. The arrival of the German occupiers also means the introduction of racial laws. Leo is Jewish, he must leave his job and the family is forced to move from its Prague flat to the countryside. Finally, even the pond is confiscated from him. Joy abandons the family and is replaced by humiliation and fear. Leo revenges himself on the Germans by taking all the fish from the confiscated pond with his son. One day, the postman brings a letter: the two older sons are under orders to be transported. Leo fears that the boys will not survive the transport because they are very thin and weak. He decides he must procure them some meat. He sets off to his favourite place by the Berounka river and kills a deer with the help of the old Prošek's Alsatian. He succeeds in smuggling the meat home despite the danger threatening from the German patrols and finally feeds up his boys.

Cast

Karel Heřmánek

tatínek Leo Popper

Marta Vančurová

maminka Herma Popperová

Rudolf Hrušínský

Karel Prošek

Jiří Krampol

boxer Jenda Hejtmánek

Lubor Tokoš

akademický malíř mistr Nejezchleb

Dana Vlková

Irma Korálková

Ladislav Potměšil

ředitel firmy Korálek, Irmin manžel

Oldřich Vlach

továrník Studený

Zuzana Geislerová

Anička Studená, továrníkova žena

Ladislav Trojan

inspektor

Jan Přeučil

inspektor

Marek Valter

Prdelka, syn Popperových

Jiří Strach

Jirka, syn Popperových

Jan Jirásek (2)

Hugo, syn Popperových

Stanislav Zindulka

prodejce Josef Vejvoda

Zdeněk Dítě

starosta

Alois Švehlík

rozvědčík

Bronislav Poloczek

řezník Franc

Jana Synková

sekretářka Gutová

Milan Riehs

JUDr. Jan Jakubíček

Karel Smrž

bubnující posel Kovařík

Valerie Čižmárová

Lili Holečková, paní kapitánová

Jana Paulová

Zita Fialová, paní majorová

Daniela Bakerová

Kalousová

Eugen Jegorov

saxofonista

Jiří Knot

farář

Blanka Lormanová

hospodyně Růženka

Viktor Maurer

ředitel Puppu

Gabriela Wilhelmová

majitelka konzumu

Miloslav Štibich

vrátný akademie

Eva Ziliziová

rozvědčíková

Josef Vondráček

Vojtíšek, muž v městečku

Bohumila Dolejšová

Maruška, žena v městečku

Roman Skamene

funebrák

Petr Pelzer

hajný Kalous

Vladimír Hrabánek

montér Beznoska

Ivan Vyskočil

gestapák

Arnošt Proschek

gestapák

Jindřich Hinke

gestapák

Jana Marková

Jakubíčková

Alena Mihulová

Bláža, služka u Studených

Petr Skarke

voják SS Hanz

Igor Smržík

voják SS

Milan Pěkný

voják SS

Miroslav Dubský

voják SS

Romana Kvapilíková

služka

Tomáš Jančařík

úředník/funebrák řidič

Miroslav Krejča

úředník/pytlák

Jiří Hájek (2)

úředník

Petr Svárovský

úředník

Ludvík Pozník

úředník

Jan Kotva

úředník

Jan Krafka

úředník

Eva Asterová

manekýna

Pravoslava Buřvalová

manekýna

Vít Pešina

montér

Miloslav Homola

zástupce

Jan Hájek

zástupce

Jindra Kvardová

vzeklá babka

Jan Polívka

hostinský

František Mikeš

nemocný muž

Pavel Střítezský

muzikant

Karel Vejvoda

muzikant

Eva Weissová

návštěvnice u Studených

Commentary

Crew and creators

Second Unit Director

Zeno Dostál, Petr Makovička

Assistant Director

Dagmar Zelenková

Based on

Ota Pavel (Smrt krásných srnců – sbírka povídek)

Shooting Script

Karel Kachyňa

Script Editor

Vladimír Bor

Second Unit Photography

Jiří Pechar

Camera Operator

Václav Zajíček

Production Designer

Karel Lier, Oldřich Okáč

Set Designer

Miroslav Fára, Pavel Svoboda, Miloslav Dvořák

Costume Designer

Irena Greifová

Film Editor

Jiří Brožek

Sound Designer

Pavel Jelínek

Production Manager

Oldřich Mach

Unit Production Manager

Luboš Kozák, Tomáš Baloun

Consultant

Ing. Miloslav Vach , Ing. František Reiser, Jiří Kloz, Jaroslav Tomsa

Music

Music Composed by

Luboš Fišer

Music Performed by

FISYO

Music Conducted by

Štěpán Koníček (FISYO)

Songs

Tisíc mil, U Šímovic skály dva trempové stáli

Songwriter

Adolf Schächter (Tisíc mil)

Writer of Lyrics

Jindřich Mlejnek (Tisíc mil)

Singer

sbor (Tisíc mil), sbor (U Šímovic skály dva trempové stáli)

Choreographer

Michal Urban

Production info

Original Title

Smrt krásných srnců

English Title

The Death of the Beautiful Deer

Copyright

1986

Production Year

1986

Premiere

01.09.1987

Creative Group

Jiří Blažek

Technical info

Format

Betacam, DVD

Versions

Czech

Awards

Vítěz

Event: 2. výroční ceny DAVID pro nejlepší DVD video roku 2005 – DVD Group.cz

2006
Plzeň / Czech Republic
BONTONFILM a.s.

Nominace

Event: Československá nominace na Cenu americké Akademie filmových věd a umění Oscar 1987

1988
Praha / Czechoslovakia

Vítěz

Festival: Mezinárodní festival filmů s židovskou tematikou Montpellier

1988
Montpellier / France

Vítěz

Event: 17. ročník čtenářské ankety týdeníku Květy ve spolupráci s Československou televizí a Ústřední půjčovnou filmů

1988
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Rudolf Hrušínský st.

Vítěz

Event: 17. ročník čtenářské ankety týdeníku Květy ve spolupráci s Československou televizí a Ústřední půjčovnou filmů

1988
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Karel Heřmánek

Vítěz

Festival: 38. filmový festival pracujících – léto ´87

1987
77 měst / Czechoslovakia

Vítěz

Festival: 38. filmový festival pracujících – léto ´87

1987
77 měst / Czechoslovakia

Vítěz

Festival: 25. festival českých a slovenských filmů Bratislava

1987
Bratislava / Czechoslovakia