The Czech Year

Country

Czechoslovakia

Copyright

1947

Production year

1946—1947

Runtime

76 min

Director

Jiří Trnka

Category

film

Genre

music, short-story

Typology

animatedtheatrical distributionlong

Original title

Špalíček

Czech title

Špalíček

English title

The Czech Year

Working title

Český rok

Summary

Jiří Trnka's 1947 puppet film The Czech Year shows traiditional customs during the four seasons in a Czech village. It is divided into five parts based on painter Mikoláš Aleš' Collection of National Folk Songs. The plot, which is amended by the legend of St. Procopius, goes on without commentary, but it is accompanied with folk songs arranged by Václav Trojan and sung by children's choir. Each episode (Carnival, Spring, The Legend of St. Procopius, The Fair, The Feast and Bethlehem) had been made separately in the enthusiastic atmosphere of the post-war era and later they were linked together. After the premiere in Kino Alfa cinema films critics highlighted film's typical Czech spirit, treatment musical and artistic folk traditions and the anti-war message highlighted. The audience of this film in Prague was not very interested in this topic, which started an open and live discussion. The foreign critics and audience reviewed the film in a positive way (at some festivals the parts of the film were shown separately). Films of Karel Zeman, Hermína Týrlová, and especially the success of Trnka, have contributed to the good name of the Czechoslovak film animation around the world (especially at the Venice International Film Festival). Their later work confirmed their value. – The film returned to the Czech distribution in the renewed premiere in 1958. In 2015 the film was digitally restored by the National Film Archive in Magyar Filmlabor in Budapest thanks to financial support from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and in partnership with the National Library of Norway and CESNET. The picture was digitalised from the original negative (the missing negative of the parts The Legend of St. Prokop and Bethlehem were replaced by a duplicate positive), the sound from a sound’s duplicate negative. The film was screened at the Anifilm festival in Třeboň on 6 May 2016. The renewed premiere in Kino Atlas cinema in Prague on 22 March 2017 was organised the National Film Archive, that also brought the film back into the regular cinema distribution.

Synopsis

Carnival. The village people celebrate a carnival (masopust) with live music. They complete it with performance of traditional customs and masks made for the carnival. After throwing the allegory of Death into the river, which is one of the old customs, everyone goes silent, and the music gets quiet. – Spring. The snow is melting, the nature is blooming. Herders are singing, girls are weaving wreaths and throwing them into the stream, boys are carving wooden flutes. They are all together greeting spring. Birds of the woods are teasing an old owl. Children start to fight with one another. In the evening everyone is rushing their cattle back home. Mother is at home putting her baby to sleep. After spring comes summer and with it also the harvest season. With the last bunch of grain appears a big storm and heavy rain. The villagers are rushing home, where they light a Groundhog candle in front of a picture of St. Procopius of Sázava. – The Legend of St. Procopius. An old man tells others the legend of a saint man who ran off to the deep forest near the river Sázava to repent for his sins. – The hermit lives in a cave surrounded by tame animals. The devil is trying to lead him away from the right path. Procopius resists all temptations. The devil therefore draws his trusting doe into the forest, where a hunter starts following her all the way to the entrance of the hermit's cave. Seeing the hermit's good will, the hunter eventually puts the bow humbly down. The devil stands defeated. – The storm is over; the little candle is out… – The Fair. The villagers are walking in a group, singing. At the chapel, everyone pray for what they want. The girl wants a man from the town, so she can marry him, the young man wants to marry a craftsman’s daughter, old farmer wants to win in a bowling game. Then the villagers go to the carnival stalls. The farmer loses all his money and his watch in a bowling game with a gypsy, the young man is rejected by the craftsman’s daughter and a gypsy fortune teller predicts that the girl will marry a farmer’s son. The farmer, the young man and the girl are disappointed. They go to see a puppet show hoping it might cheer them up. The show is about a girl called Kateřina and a Turkish prince, who wants to marry her. She is not interested in him, so she pretends to be dead, so the Turkish prince decides to execute her father. The young man gets involved in the play so much, that he tries to protect the puppet father from the Turkish prince and the executioner. The young man realizes together with the girl, that they are in love with each other. The farmer promises himself, that he is never going to play bowling again. The new couple gives the poor puppet actors generous presents. The young man, the girl and the farmer go back home with good new resolutions. – The Feast. The villagers gather in a pub at the full tables to talk, eat, drink, sing and dance together while listening to music. An old homeless woman arrives to the village, carrying a harp with her, but she gets only one cookie. One song, that she is playing, reminds an old veteran of his faith. When he was young, he had to go to war and left his beloved girlfriend behind. Not long after she received a letter saying that her boyfriend died in a war. The veteran returned home, without legs, just at the time of the wedding of his girlfriend with a rich man. Suddenly there is a gloomy atmosphere in the pub, but the band arrives and the mood swings. The bagpiper starts to dance even with the veteran and dances with him until the veteran falls and the musicians get kicked out of the pub. The bagpiper is lured by an evil fairy into a deep forest pond. At the last moment, the veteran saves him by throwing a rose into the water, breaking the evil spell. The bagpiper asks him for forgiveness. – Bethlehem. The winter has come and so has Christmas with its traditions. The news of the birth of Jesus Christ spread in the village. All the villagers rush to worship him. In peace and tranquillity, they stand before the new-born. The Star of Bethlehem still shines on many crosses…

Film online

Crew and creators

Director

Jiří Trnka

Screenplay

Jiří Trnka

Shooting Script

Jiří Trnka

Director of Photography

Vladimír Novotný, Emanuel Franek

Art Director

Jiří Trnka (výtvarná práce, návrhy loutek a staveb)

Set Designer

Jaroslav Zdrůbecký (stavba scény a rekvizity), František Braun (stavba scény a rekvizity), František Horník (stavba scény a rekvizity), V. Braun (stavba scény a rekvizity), Karel Sobotka (stavba scény a rekvizity)

Sound Designer

Josef Zavadil

Production Manager

Jaroslav Jílovec

Unit Production Manager

Vladimír Janovský

Artistic Collaboration

J. Reigrová (provedení loutek), Václav Mervart (provedení loutek), Jaroslav Zdrůbecký (provedení loutek), Josef Zdrůbecký (provedení loutek), Karel Sobotka (provedení loutek), Milena Neubauerová (provedení loutek)

Cooperation

Hana Lebdušková, Bořivoj Novák, Emanuel Franek (fotograf), Jan Lukas (fotograf), Jiří Šafář (fotograf)

Music

Music Composed by

Václav Trojan

Music Performed by

FISYO (Music Conducted by Otakar Pařík), Dětský sbor Českého pěveckého sboru (Music Conducted by Jan Kühn)

Production info

Original Title

Špalíček

Czech Title

Špalíček

English Title

The Czech Year

Working Title

Český rok

Category

film

Typology

animatedtheatrical distribution

Genre

music, short-story

Origin country

Czechoslovakia

Copyright

1947

Production Year

1946—1947

Production specifications

start of filming 11/1946
projection approval 17 December 1947 (konec povolení k promítání 17. 12. 1952)
withdrawal from distribution 4 May 1950
projection approval 15 November 1957
withdrawal from distribution 30 September 1991

Premiere

premiere 19 December 1947 /suitable for youths/ (kino Alfa /4 týdny/, Praha)
renewed premiere 19 August 1958 /suitable for youths/
renewed premiere 22 March 2017 /suitable for all ages without limit/

Copyright Holders

Národní filmový archiv

Distribution

Státní půjčovna filmů (původní 1947), Ústřední půjčovna filmů (obnovená 1958), Národní filmový archiv (obnovená 2017)

Technical info

Duration typology

feature film

Duration in minutes

76 min

Original length in metres

2 059 meters

Distribution carrier

16mm, 35mm, DCP 2-D, BRD

Animation technique

puppet

Aspect ratio

1:1,37

Colour

colour

Sound

sound

Sound system/format

mono

Versions

Czech

Dialogue languages

Czech, without dialogue, sung

Subtitles languages

without subtitles

Opening/End credits languages

Czech

Awards

Vítěz

Exhibition: 5. mezinárodní přehlídka hudby a tance Valencie

1962
Valencie / Spain
Václav Trojan

Vítěz

Exhibition: Přehlídka kreslených a loutkových filmů Svazu filmových klubů Paříž

1949
Paříž / France

Vítěz

Event: Aprobační komise pro schvalování českých filmů

1948
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Václav Trojan

Vítěz

Event: Cena filmových kritiků za roky 1945 až 1947

1948
Praha / Czechoslovakia

Vítěz

Event: Aprobační komise pro schvalování českých filmů

1948
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Jiří Trnka

Vítěz

Event: 3. ročník Mélièsových cen

1948
Paříž / France

Vítěz

Festival: 9. mezinárodní filmový festival Benátky

1948
Benátky / Italy

Vítěz

Event: Aprobační komise pro schvalování českých filmů

1948
Praha / Czechoslovakia
kolektiv pracovníků Kresleného a loutkového filmu Praha

Vítěz

Festival: Mezinárodní festival filmu a výtvarnictví Brusel

1947
Brusel / Belgium

Vítěz

Event: Anketa Filmových novin o nejlepší český a zahraniční film

1947
Praha / Czechoslovakia

Vítěz

Festival: 8. mezinárodní filmový festival Benátky

1947
Benátky / Italy
Jiří Trnka