A Magpie in the Hand

Country

Czechoslovakia

Copyright

1987

Production year

1982—1983, 1987

Premiere

1 February 1991

Runtime

96 min

Director

Juraj Herz

Category

film

Genre

allegory

Typology

featuretheatrical distributionlong

Original title

Straka v hrsti

Czech title

Straka v hrsti

English title

A Magpie in the Hand

Summary

Director Juraj Herz experimented with numerous genres in the 1980s, from his adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale Přezůvky štěstí (The Galoshes of Fortune, 1986) to the comedy Sladké starosti (Sweet Troubles, 1984), a mafia film parody Buldoci a třešně (Bulldogs and Cherries, 1981), the drama Zastihla mě noc (Caught by Night, 1985), and the sci-fi horror flick Upír z Feratu (The Vampire of Ferato, 1981). Yet the most unusual film he created during the decade, which culminated with the director’s emigration to West Germany (1987), was Straka v hrsti (A Magpie in the Hand, 1988). Publicist, theatrologist and screenwriter Antonín Přidal adapted and updated a medieval play called Mastičkář (The Quack, or The Ointment Seller) to fit Herz’s needs while preserving its carnival-like theatricality. Even though the story appears to be timeless, the result was an encrypted “play of love and hate” satirising contemporary social and political practices. The medieval marketplace is adjacent to a modern-day wasteyard and the protagonists are as much actors as characters and timeless figures of the Middle Ages representing everlasting, persistent human traits. Young Rubín (Jan Hrušínský) is in love with thieving drifter Straka (Györgyi Tarján), while unfaithful townswoman Anděla (Zdeňka Sajfertová) and sly quack Severín (Boris Rösner) attempt to obtain a priceless pearl stolen from an old moneylender (Leoš Suchařípa). However, what the pearl brings is misery and frustration. A gang of highwaymen on motorbikes, royal pages and a group of travelling thespians all add to the colourfulness of the “eternal” society that passes through the ages, complete with all its desires, loving and hating, despite the changing costumes and shifting sceneries... The thinly veiled attacks of the political collage that mixes the past with the present with the rhythm of carnival ran into trouble even during the making of the film. To make things a tad worse, the soundtrack was by the Pražský výběr band, which was banned from public performance at the time (one song title gave the film its name). The film production also ground to a halt while an investigation of alleged lewdness was under way. Straka v hrsti (A Magpie in the Hand) eventually went straight into the censor’s vault, never to appear on the silver screen. It finally reached audiences after 1989 on video cassettes.

Synopsis

Some young dancers change back into everyday clothes which was scattered all over the floor, and in next to no time find themselves in a medieval market. A pickpocket and tramp named Straka [which is Czech for magpie], a young man named Rubín, who is in love with Straka, the cunning quack doctor Severín and the luscious burgher Anděla, repudiated by her husband - an old usurer - fight for survival in the rough environment. They all desire a rare pearl which Straka took from the moneylender. The pearl is stolen from her by Rubín, but it is in turn soon seized by Severín who escapes. Anděla, Straka and Rubín set off after him. In an abandoned quarry, they discover the body of a young man called Student with his throat cut and meet some itinerant actors and a gang of bandits on motorcycles, headed by the highwayman Zima. The gang saves Severín from a trap pit and come to believe that he crushed the pearl and has made a miraculous ointment out of it which they begin selling at markets. During their further wanderings, they arrive at the place of a bloody fight between royal armigers and Zima's gang. They find shelter on a farmstead where they come into conflict with the actors who compete with them at the markets. But Zima's gang soon storms in, plundering the farmstead and later shooting the villagers with a machine gun. Zima suffers from toothache, but the "miraculous pearl ointment" does not help. Zima punishes the quartet, tying them to poles. They all, however, gradually break free from their bonds. The actors hide them among themselves from Zima who is following Straka because of the pearls. Then, they continue journeying. Car lights begin swooshing around them. As the group is walking on a grassy motorway central reservation, the figures slowly fade away and the only thing remaining is the stream of headlights.

Note

The movie was filmed in 1982, post-synchronization was completed on November 26, 1982, editing and mixing up to December 30, 1983. It was finished after further editing in December 1987. The movie was distributed from the year 1988 on videocasettes produced by the Central Films Rental (Ústřední půjčovna filmů, ÚPF). The film was put into cinemas in February 1991.

Cast

Györgyi Tarján

Dubbing Dana Bartůňková
kapsářka zvaná Straka

Zdeňka Sajfertová

měštka Anděla

Leoš Suchařípa

lichvář, muž Anděly

Jan Hrušínský

Rubín, lichvářův sluha

Boris Rösner

mastičkář Severín

Vladimír Hauser

Zjizvenec, kumpán Straky

Miroslav Donutil

Nosatec, kumpán Straky

Boris Hybner

herec syn

Ivan Podobský

Dubbing Jiří Prager
herec vnuk

Frank Towen

Dubbing Dalimil Klapka
herec děd

Václav Kovařík

loupežný rytíř Zima

Kateřina Rajmontová

mysterium - anděl

Dana Balounová

mysterium - dívka

Marie Spurná

mysterium - smrt

Ivana Vavrová

mysterium - jeptiška

Zuzana Töpferová

mysterium - lehká žena

Tomáš Töpfer

mysterium - šašek

Václav Knop

mysterium - ďábel

Alexej Okuněv

mysterium - kat/dědic

Ivan Rajmont

mysterium - král

Luděk Čtvrtlík

mysterium - blázen

Pavel Rímský

mysterium - mnich

Oskar Hák

bubeník

Jiří Knot

klenotník

Hana Militká

děvečka/lehká žena

Jaroslav Malík ml.

dlužník

Rudolf Stärz

mládenec

Dagmar Benešlová

nahá žena/měšťanka/trhovkyně

E. Formánková

nahá žena

J. Garaiová

nahá žena

V. Hrabaňová

nahá žena/lehká žena

Jana Pavlátová

nahá žena/měšťanka/lehká žena

M. Strinčáková

nahá žena

I. Dubský

nahý muž

M. Kobal

nahý muž

J. Kadeřábek

nahý muž

Richard Kraus

nahý muž/trhovec

J. Kukal

nahý muž

A. Mucha

nahý muž

V. Prajzler

nahý muž

A. Šístek

nahý muž

P. Vrága

nahý muž/měšťan

Jiří Vnouček

nahý muž

T. Zetek

nahý muž/měšťan

J. Cmíral

měšťan

/H.D.Jihlava/

J. Dobeš

měšťan

J. Doubrava

měšťan

G. Dörnerová

měšťanka

Eva Hlaváčková

měšťanka

Eva Hořánková

měšťanka

Eva Jeníčková

měšťanka

Pavel Linhart

měšťan

Mirko Musil

měšťan

Ivana Mervartová

měšťanka

René Netopilík

měšťan

Bedřich Prokůpek

měšťan

P. Rejzek

měšťan

Hana Sudolská

měšťanka

Julie Soukupová

měšťanka

Karel Vaněk (3)

měšťan

Pavel Vangeli

měšťan

Antonín Novotný (4)

měšťan

T. Benešová

lehká žena

M. Grušová

lehká žena

Pavla Michálková

lehká žena

Eva Machová

lehká žena

K. Pavlíková-Preislerová

lehká žena

M. Polášková

lehká žena

J. Šišková

lehká žena

M. Vavřincová

lehká žena

Miroslava Vydrová

lehká žena

Ariana Shameti

trhovkyně

Lucie Stropnická

trhovkyně

H. Šalátová

trhovkyně

A. Šviha

trhovec

Nina Vangeli

trhovkyně

Zdena Pojezdná

trhovkyně

Petr Vacek

trhovec

Pavel Marek

odsouzenec

J. Vančura

kat

Vilém Čok

hudebník

Jiří Hrubeš

hudebník

skupina Dominik

skupina historického šermu

Crew and creators

Director

Juraj Herz

Second Unit Director

Dobroslav Zborník

Assistant Director

Zdeněk Tyc, Irena Klausová

Screenstory

Antonín Přidal

Shooting Script

Juraj Herz

Script Editor

Václav Nývlt

Director of Photography

Viktor Růžička

Production Designer

Miloš Červinka

Set Designer

Petr Matouš, Jiří Matějka, Yvetta Kornová, Eva Slívová

Sound Designer

Karel Jaroš

Production Manager

Jiří Beránek

Unit Production Manager

Vladimíra Kopecká, Vlasta Synkulová

Unit Production Manager

Magdalena Mikešová

Cooperation

Jitka Stehlíková, Anna Mejtská, Petr Pištěk, Jiří Zobač, Jiří Kučera

Music

Music Composed by

Michael Kocáb, Michal Pavlíček (použité motivy hudby)

Music Performed by

Michael Kocáb, Michal Pavlíček, Jiří Hrubeš, Vilém Čok, FISYO

Choreographer

Jan Hartmann

Songs

Poslyšte příběh velmi krásný

Songwriter Michael KocábMichal Pavlíček
Writer of Lyrics Michael Kocáb
Singer Jana Kratochvílová

Drahé masti

Songwriter Michael KocábMichal Pavlíček
Writer of Lyrics Michael Kocáb
Singer Boris Rösner

Sníh už taje

Songwriter Michael KocábMichal Pavlíček
Writer of Lyrics Michael Kocáb
Singer Ivan Podobský [dab]Vilém Čok

Production info

Original Title

Straka v hrsti

Czech Title

Straka v hrsti

English Title

A Magpie in the Hand

Category

film

Typology

featuretheatrical distribution

Genre

allegory

Origin country

Czechoslovakia

Copyright

1987

Production Year

1982—1983, 1987

Production specifications

literary Screenplay approved 12 March 1979
technical Screenplay approved 18 June 1982
start of filming 4 August 1982
end of filming 7 October 1982
the first film copy approved 30 December 1983
projection approval 11 February 1988

Premiere

premiere 1 February 1991

Creative Group

3. dramaturgicko-výrobní skupina (1982–1983), Václav Erben (vedoucí 3. dramaturgicko-výrobní skupiny), Tvůrčí skupina Profil (1987), Karel Czaban (vedoucí tvůrčí skupiny Profil)

Technical info

Duration typology

feature film

Duration in minutes

96 min

Original length in metres

2 686 meters

Distribution carrier

35mm

Aspect ratio

1:1,37

Colour

colour

Sound

sound

Sound system/format

mono

Versions

Czech

Dialogue languages

Czech

Subtitles languages

without subtitles

Opening/End credits languages

Czech