The Ark of Fools

drama

Typology

feature

Czech title

Archa bláznů aneb Vyprávění z konce života

Runtime

105

Country

Czechoslovakia

Copyright

1990

Production year

1969, 1970, 1990

Premiere

01.11.1990

Language version

Czech

Director

Ivan Balaďa

Screenplay

Lubor Dohnal

Summary

The only film made by Slovak director Ivan Balaďa for the silver screen is an allegory, usually listed under its abbreviated title of Archa bláznů (Ark of Fools). A native of Bratislava, Balaďa made numerous documentaries and feature films for TV (such as Smrť sa volá Engelchen [Death is Called Engelchen, 1963], Tri gaštanové kone [Three Bay Horses, 1967], Oči plne snehu [Eyes Full of Snow, 1983] and the three-part drama Biela voči oblohe [White against the Sky, 1986]). He also made a fairytale TV film O živé vodě (On the Water of Life, 1987) and a TV miniseries Největší z Pierotů (The Greatest of Pierrots) which was inspired by František Kožík’s novel of the same name and aired in 1990. Archa bláznů (Ark of Fools) also stands out among Balaďa’s works for exactly the wrong reason; it halted his career as a cinema director for good. Loosely based on the short allegorical story Ward No. 6 by Anton Chekhov (1892), with a screenplay penned by Lubor Dohnal, the film was a too thinly veiled caricature of contemporary politics, despite its adherence to the book’s original time-frame and setting. The making of the film was halted in 1970 and the film material was not restored until 20 years later. Although Archa bláznů was completed along the lines of the original concept, the author’s satisfaction would never be complete. Chekhov’s allegory tells the story of senior medical officer Andrey Ragin who attempts to transform a dilapidated psychiatric ward that has been entrusted to his care. However, he is largely unable to help his patients and beyond that his own demeanour raises suspicions that he is mentally ill himself. Ragin therefore ends up among his patients and dies before he can carry through his ideas of liberty and equality. A sensitive man of conscience thus finds himself at the receiving end of persecution by a totalitarian society… The lead role of Ragin in the film was assumed by the now almost forgotten actor Zlatomír Vacek while the patient Gromov was played by then 24-year-old folk singer Vladimír Merta.

Synopsis

The chief physician of a neglected hospital somewhere in a backwood Russian guberniya is the bright Andrei Ragin. He runs into vulgarity, ugliness, dirt, anger, lack of competence and hypocrisy on a daily basis. Faced with this reality he constantly experiences a sense of downfall because he in fact cannot help his patients. In pavilion No. 6 serving mentally ill patients, Ragin meets the young Gromoff who suffers from persecution mania and a desire for freedom. Ragin performs his duties but gradually locks himself away, and not even the arrivals of guests and the loving care of his housekeeper, Daria Pavlovna, do anything to help. He is even visited by the town notables, headed by Lev Trophimovich, on his birthday. His behaviour soon becomes the subject of committee proceedings chaired by Trophimovich. Ragin is then removed from his leading position and is replaced by the incompetent and uneducated intern Khobotoff. He takes Ragin to a pavilion, reportedly to see a patient, but Ragin soon realizes that he himself becomes the patient in the ruinous shack. He cannot leave no matter how strong he and Gromoff hammer the gate; the guard beats them severely. The tortured Ragin begins to sing and the rest of the fools join him. Toward the evening, Ragin dies and the muzhiks carry him to a chapel by his arms and legs. "And there he was / just there on the table / with his eyes open wide / and the moon silvered him at nights."

Note

The filming started in 1969 and 1970. It was subsequently halted and it finished only as late as in 1990; copyright 1990.

Cast

Zlatomír Vacek

šéflékař Andrej Jefimyč Ragin

Vladimír Merta

pacient Ivan Dmitrič Gromov

Slavoj Urban

Michail Averjanyč Goljubkin

Antonín Horák

sekundář Jevgenij Fjodoryč Chobotov

Hana Slivková

Marja Prokofjevna, Chobotovova žena

Ivan Králik

felčar Sergej Sergejevič

Milica Linhartová

asistentka Naděžda Osipovna zvaná Rusalka

André Maroun-Gédéon

žid Mojsejka

Vojtěch Ron

Lev Trofimovič

Elena Zvaríková

kuchařka Varvara

Ladislav Brothánek

Jefrim, Varvařin druh

Pavel Michailov

hlídač Nikita

Milena Vopatová

bláznivá nevěsta

Ladislav Gzela

velitel hasičů

Zuzana Fišárková

bláznivá Stěpka

Mnislav Hofmann

Semjonov

Jiří Ptáček (2)

hluchoněmý

Václav Provazník

hluchoněmý

Alois Krameš

pacient

Vlastimila Vlková

hospodyně Darja Pavlovna

Pavel Pekárek

zrzek

Jana Posseltová

Nina

Zora Rozsypalová

žena burcující pacienty

Eva Řepíková

reportérka

Olga Čechová

reportérka

Marie Hatleová

stařena

Julius Albert

kartář

Žofie Housová

pacientka

Zuzana Fréharová

ženská

Vratislav Žídek

mužik

Klára Dohnalová

Máša

Jan Drnek

mužik Matvěj

Vladimír Švabík

zřízenec

Vít Haderka

Alexandr Lvovič

Magda Křížková

Lina, dcera Chobotovových

Libuše Komancová

pradlena

Natalie Švabíková

pradlena

Klementina Zunová

pacientka

F. Andres

MUDr. Mricin

J. Konůpka

pacient s řády

J. Šafránek

pacient

J. Zeman

hluchoněmý

K. Rys

Nikolaj

K. Zuna

umírající

L. Hanuš

voják

I. Pešl

muzikant

M. Svoboda

zřízenec

I. Hezinová

dívka

M. Stupka

Ivan

Josef Němeček (2)

uprchlý vězeň

J. Navrátil

uprchlý vězeň

J. Vacek

tanečník

členové Dřevěného divadla

Dubbing

Josef Abrhám

hlas Gromova

Jiří Hálek

hlas sekundáře

Slávka Budínová

hlas Marji

František Husák

hlas felčara

Pavel Landovský

hlas hlídače

Eva Svobodová

hlas hospodyně

Crew and creators

Director

Ivan Balaďa

Second Unit Director

Julius Matula, Tomáš Škrdlant

Assistant Director

Ivan Frič, Věra Houšková

Based on

Anton Pavlovič Čechov (Pavilon č. 6 /Palata No. 6/ – povídka)

Screenplay

Lubor Dohnal

Script Editor

Zdeněk Bláha

Second Unit Photography

Bohumír Durčák

Camera Operator

Vlastimil Malaska

Production Designer

Jindřich Goetz

Art Director

Ester Krumbachová

Set Designer

Jaroslav Chytrý, Eva Slívová

Costume Designer

Ester Krumbachová

Film Editor

Alois Fišárek

Sound Designer

Jiří Hora

Production Manager

Václav Rouha

Unit Production Manager

Blažej Vráb, Zdeňka Černá

Unit Production Manager

Ladislav Herz

Cooperation

Eva Charvátová

Music

Music Composed by

Štěpán Koníček

Music Performed by

FISYO

Music Conducted by

Štěpán Koníček (FISYO)

Production info

Original Title

Archa bláznů aneb Vyprávění z konce života

English Title

The Ark of Fools

Working Title

Pavilón č. 6

Copyright

1990

Production Year

1969, 1970, 1990

Premiere

01.11.1990

Creative Group

Juráček – Kučera, Pavel Juráček, Jaroslav Kučera

Technical info

Versions

Czech