The Elementary School

Country

Czechoslovakia

Copyright

1991

Production year

1991

Premiere

8 August 1991

Runtime

90 min

Director

Jan Svěrák

Category

film

Genre

comedy

Typology

featurelong

Original title

Obecná škola

Czech title

Obecná škola

English title

The Elementary School

Summary

Viewed as the last major triumph of state-run Czechoslovak film production, this nostalgic tragicomedy also provided a feature-film directorial debut for the then 26-year-old Jan Svěrák. Obecná škola (The Elementary School, 1991) received an Oscar nomination in 1992 for Best Foreign Film. Written by the director’s father, Zdeněk Svěrák, the film showcases the talents of both men – especially the burgeoning talent of its young director. The young Svěrák would go on to direct his father in the Oscar-winning comedy and drama Kolja (Kolya, 1996) four years later. In his script for The Elementary School, Zdeněk Svěrák fills the story with autobiographical moments – he initially hoped that the project would be taken on by director Vít Olmer. But in spite of taking over “foreign” material, Jan Svěrák proved to be the perfect director for this film, filling the story with playful, dynamic and heartfelt moments. The story takes place during the first “liberated” post-war school year of 1945-6, on the outskirts of Prague. The protagonist is 10-year-old Eda Souček (Václav Jakoubek), who, along with friend Tonda, experiences various boyhood adventures. But all of these pale in contrast with the brave, heroic deeds proudly recalled to the pupils by their new teacher – the strict, but fair patriot Igor Hnízdo (exquisitely played by Jan Tříska). Hnízo arrives at the school like a bolt of lightning, replacing the worn-out Maxová (Daniela Kolářová). The pupils are spellbound by this apparent hero in their midst – as are the various women who encounter Hnízdo, including Eda’s mother (Libuše Šafránková). However, the new teacher’s reputation as a war hero turns out to be rather imagined – though this does little to decrease his skills as a teacher. For Eda, another, truer hero is to be found in the form of his unassuming, pedantic father, electric plant worker František. Jan and Zdeňek Svěrák brilliantly mine the brief hope-filled post-war years, presenting a euphoric time filled with ideals and expectations. Ultimately, however, a dark shadow in the form of the growing communist strength is set to quash such hopes. But for all its allegorical potency, The Elementary School shines most brightly as a celebration of boyhood imagination and adventures, the optimistic atmosphere of which very much reflects the post-1989 Velvet Revolution time in which the film was made.

Synopsis

It is shortly after the Second World War. The ten-year old pupils of a boy's class in a small elementary school in the Prague suburbs excel at lacking of discipline. Tonda Čejka steals props from an illusionist during his school performance. His friend Eda Souček obeys his advice to remove the mudguards from his father's bicycle. The resulting racing bicycle certainly does not please father Souček riding in the pouring rain. An insufficiently vigorous teacher ends up in a mental asylum and is replaced by the new teacher Igor Hnízdo. The boisterous boys are totally fascinated by him. His attire reminds them of a military uniform and the teacher is always ready to use the cane tucked into his high boots. But Hnízdo's punishments are fair and, moreover, his lessons are extremely interesting. He, for example, accompanies his lesson about the martyr Huss by playing the violin, thus moving the "rough" pupils to tears. They also breathlessly listen to his stories from various war fronts whose rather ostentatious hero is no one but himself. But Hnízdo also has an uncontrollable passion for women. One of his lovelorn acquaintances, a tramdriver's wife, writes a letter denouncing him, and the teacher faces a prison sentence for seducing underage twins. Eda, as well as others, senses that the teacher probably makes up his heroic exploits a little. But they all eventually stand up for him, disclaiming his physical punishments. A doctor's examination of the twins proves the teacher innocent. Eda's real hero becomes his inconspicuous father who – although an eternal civilian – courageously disarms a bazooka found during a school trip. Tonda loses his fingers in one of his experiments and thus donates his accordion to Eda. The news that the electrician Souček nicknamed Transformer was hit by electricity and was burnt to death, was fortunately false. A theatre performance – a celebratory sketch written by Hnízdo on the occasion of the first anniversary of the republic's liberation – ends with a fight among all the actors-pupils which occurs right in front of their parents' eyes.

Cast

Jan Tříska

učitel Igor Hnízdo

Zdeněk Svěrák

tatínek František Souček

Libuše Šafránková

maminka Součková

Rudolf Hrušínský

ředitel školy

Václav Jakoubek

Eda Souček

Radoslav Budáč

Tonda Čejka, Edův kamarád

Marek Endal

spolužák Rosenheim

Irena Pavlásková

Tramvajáková

Ondřej Vetchý

Tramvaják

Daniela Kolářová

učitelka Maxová

Eva Holubová

Čejková, Tondova matka

Rudolf Hrušínský ml.

karbaník Bohouš Čejka, Tondův otec

Iva Škudrnová

dvojče Květa Fabiánová

Miroslava Škudrnová

dvojče Růža Fabiánová

Petr Čepek

fakír Josef Mrázek alias Rádži Tamil

Boleslav Polívka

soused Cyril Plíha

Oldřich Vlach

školník

Petr Brukner

řidič autobusu

Karla Chadimová

poštovní úřednice

Karel Kachyňa

školní inspektor

Miroslava Pleštilová

učitelka Plecitá

Alice Dvořáková

Fabiánová, matka dvojčat

Zdeněk Mucha

hospodský Lukeš

Bořivoj Penc

harmonikář Ferda Kavka

Ladislav Chroust

dispečer Skokan

Taťana Puttová

drbna Mlejnková

Viktor Nejedlý

vrátný

Jiří Menzel

gynekolog MUDr. Kalaban

Olga Vohryzková

Rosenheimová

Rudolf Hammer

zmrzlinář Vaněk

Michal Škrabal

Dušička

Jaroslav Slánský

Lerch

Martin Janda

Máček

Jan Demeter

Lakatoš

Filip Lím

Chramosta

Tomáš Krejčík

Potužník

Jaroslav Kudláček

Hejnic

Václav Chalupa

Stavinoha

Michal Lajtkep

žák

Jaroslav Ježek (herec)

žák

Jan Kasala

žák

Marek Pelc

žák

Pavel Kučera

žák

Martin Pětioký

žák

Ivo Hasalík

žák

Karel Kmoch

žák

Michal Škrabák

žák

Jiří Tala

žák

Jiří Prückner

žák

Petra Bžunková

žák

Hynek Votoček

žák

Jiří Peterka

žák

Stanislav Hájek

starý pán

Dubbing

Zlata Adamovská

hlas úřednice

Jan Hraběta

hlas Skokana

Crew and creators

Director

Jan Svěrák

Second Unit Director

František Nejedlý, Hana Hebrová

Assistant Director

Gabriela Muchová, Jan Hraběta, Ivana Adamovská

Screenstory

Zdeněk Svěrák

Shooting Script

Jan Svěrák

Script Editor

Václav Šašek

Second Unit Photography

Ladislav Chroust

Camera Operator

Václav Zajíček

Set Designer

Michal Erazim, Jiří Matějka, Eva Slívová, Robert Vlček

Costume Designer

Jan Kropáček

Film Editor

Alois Fišárek

Special Effects

Jaroslav Kolman (pyrotechnik)

Production Manager

Jaromír Lukáš

Unit Production Manager

Jiří Synek, Antonín Pražský, Dagmar Pitráková

Unit Production Manager

Josef Basakin, Pavel Bačkovský, Vladimír Švestka

Consultant

prof. Jaroslav Ruis , Jaroslav Tomsa, Ing. Miloš Pína, mjr. Jaroslav Šebek

Cooperation

Barbora Makovcová, Ivan Frössl, Monika Machytková, Ivo Brumar, Dalibor Adámek

Music

Music Composed by

Jiří F. Svoboda

Selected Music

Antonín Dvořák (Symfonie č.9 e moll /Z Nového světa/ – Largo), Antonín Dvořák (Humoreska), Jiří Traxler (Potkal jsem svůj sen)

Music Performed by

FISYO, Orchestr R. A. Dvorského

Music Conducted by

Štěpán Koníček (FISYO)

Songs

Potkal jsem svůj sen, Hranice vzplála tam na břehu Rýna, Kdyby ty muziky nebyly, Žádnej neví, co je to kolečko, Škoda lásky, Kaťuša, Když jsem husy pásala

Songwriter

Jiří Traxler (Potkal jsem svůj sen), Jaromír Vejvoda (Kdyby ty muziky nebyly), Jaromír Vejvoda (Škoda lásky), Matvej Isaakovič Blantěr (Kaťuša)

Writer of Lyrics

Jiří Traxler (Potkal jsem svůj sen), Karel Tůma (Hranice vzplála tam na břehu Rýna), Jaromír Vejvoda (Kdyby ty muziky nebyly), Alexej Alexandrovič Surkov (Kaťuša)

Singer

R. A. Dvorský (Potkal jsem svůj sen), Jan Tříska (Hranice vzplála tam na břehu Rýna), Bořivoj Penc (Kdyby ty muziky nebyly), sbor (Kdyby ty muziky nebyly), dětský sbor (Žádnej neví, co je to kolečko), Jan Tříska (Kaťuša), klukovský sbor (Když jsem husy pásala)

Production info

Original Title

Obecná škola

English Title

The Elementary School

Category

film

Typology

feature

Genre

comedy

Origin country

Czechoslovakia

Copyright

1991

Production Year

1991

Premiere

8 August 1991

Technical info

Lenght

long

Runtime

90 min

Versions

Czech

Awards

Vítěz

Event: Anketa českých filmových kritiků o nejlepší český film let 1990 – 2019

2020
Praha / Czech Republic

Vítěz

Festival: 14. mezinárodní filmový festival Fantasporto Porto

1994
Porto / Portugal
Jan Svěrák

Vítěz

Event: Anketa časopisu Kinorevue

1993
Praha / Czech Republic

Vítěz

Event: Anketa časopisu Kinorevue

1993
Praha / Czech Republic

Vítěz

Festival: Festival evropského filmu La Baule

1992
La Baule / France

Vítěz

Exhibition: 24. národní přehlídka filmů pro děti Ostrov

1992
Ostrov nad Ohří / Czechoslovakia
Václav Jakoubek

Nominace

Event: 64. ročník Ceny americké Akademie filmových věd a umění Oscar 1991

1992
Hollywood, Los Angeles / United States of America

Vítěz

Exhibition: 24. národní přehlídka filmů pro děti Ostrov

1992
Ostrov nad Ohří / Czechoslovakia

Vítěz

Event: Ceny Trilobit za rok 1991

1992
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Jan Svěrák

Vítěz

Exhibition: 24. národní přehlídka filmů pro děti Ostrov

1992
Ostrov nad Ohří / Czechoslovakia

Vítěz

Exhibition: 24. národní přehlídka filmů pro děti Ostrov

1992
Ostrov nad Ohří / Czechoslovakia

Vítěz

Festival: 5. mezinárodní festival filmů pro děti Bellinzona

1992
Bellinzona / Switzerland

Vítěz

Exhibition: 24. národní přehlídka filmů pro děti Ostrov

1992
Ostrov nad Ohří / Czechoslovakia
Zdeněk Svěrák

Vítěz

Event: Prémie Českého literárního fondu v oblasti filmu za rok 1992

1992
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Zdeněk Svěrák

Vítěz

Festival: 5. festival českých a slovenských filmů FINÁLE Plzeň

1991
Plzeň / Czechoslovakia

Vítěz

Festival: 31. festival filmů pro děti Zlín

1991
Zlín / Czechoslovakia

Vítěz

Festival: 13. festival české a slovenské filmové veselohry Nové Město nad Metují

1991
Nové Město nad Metují / Czechoslovakia
Zdeněk Svěrák

Vítěz

Festival: 13. festival české a slovenské filmové veselohry Nové Město nad Metují

1991
Nové Město nad Metují / Czechoslovakia
Jan Svěrák

Vítěz

Event: 6. Fórum mladého filmu Bratislava

1991
Bratislava / Czechoslovakia

Vítěz

Festival: 31. festival filmů pro děti Zlín

1991
Zlín / Czechoslovakia