Old Czech Legends

Country

Czechoslovakia

Copyright

1952

Production year

1952

Premiere

11 September 1953

Runtime

85 min

Director

Jiří Trnka

Category

film

Genre

folk tale

Typology

animatedtheatrical distributionlong

Original title

Staré pověsti české

Czech title

Staré pověsti české

English title

Old Czech Legends

Summary

Jiří Trnka's classic puppet film Old Czech Legends (1952) is definitely one of the crucial works of the golden fund of Czech cinema, and not only for this reason it has been digitally converted and laboriously restored. Even after many decades it still surprises with its innovative concept of puppet film and its artistic complexity, which is extraordinary even on a global scale. The plot is based on Alois Jirásek's work of the same name, however when writing the film story Jiří Trnka and writer Miloš V. Kratochvíl also relied on Chronica Boemorum by medieval historian Cosmas of Prague, and on the results of archaeological excavations. The basis of the film are six episodes from the ancient history of the Bohemians, from their arrival in the new country under the guidence of their duke Pater Bohemus, through the legends of Bivoj's slaying of the dangerous wild boar, Libuše and Přemysl, the Maidens' War, through Horymír and his faithful horse Šemík, to the final fable of the Lucko War. The episodes are linked with a commentary and build on each other seamlessly, but they were sometimes performed separately abroad (especially on various film exhibitions). In the crucial artistic aspect Trnka drew on historical observations, but at the same time had to adapt to the established visual stereotype associated with the paintings or illustrations of Josef Mánes, Antonín Procházka, Mikuláš Aleš and Věnceslav Černý (Trnka himself illustrated Jirásek's book later). He created a number of puppets with stylized and individualized faces and devoted himself not only to the protagonists but also to the large crowd scenes, which placed considerable demands on the animators and other members of the crew. The importance of the execution of costumes and props was also their main focus. The sound component, in addition to the voices of several narrators from among the famous Czech actors and interestingly created movements, consists of a rich soundtrack by Václav Trojan, which is based on reconstruction of early medieval music, combined with classical symphonic music, but especially on Czech folk tradition, which is reflected in the dramaturgical use of various songs. – From today's point of view, a certain naivety and pathos of the commentary and the music may cause a little disturbance, but this does not reduce the quality of the exceptional piece. In restoring the original material, the aim was not to create an ideal form, but to come as close as possible to the style in which the film was first released. – The National Film Archive has also published a book entitled Old Czech Legends (edited by Lucie Česálková, National Film Archive, Prague 2015), which is a collection of expert studies focusing on various components of the film, the history of its creation and its contemporary context, as well as a collection of archival documents. The film was restored in 2015 under the supervision of the National Film Archive by the Magyar Filmlabor in Budapest as part of the European Capital of Culture Pilsen 2015 project and with the financial support of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, the National Film Archive and the City of Pilsen. The original Agfacolor nitrate negative was used to digitalize the image and the sound print in the best technical condition. This version was first screened on 26 April 2015 at the Finale Pilsen festival.

Synopsis

The people mourn the death of Pater Bohemus, who brought them to the land under the mountain Říp. They reminisce their flight from the fighting in their original homeland and their exhausting journey. In their new homeland, they cut down forests, cultivate fields, celebrate the harvest, hunt wild animals and fish. They live in fear of the powerful gods, especially the thundering Perun, to whom they offer sacrifices. But when lightning sets the village on fire, they must help themselves. They choose a name after their duke: The Bohemians. – The dead duke's body is burned. – After his death, Krok, who had Vyšehrad built and who had three daughters (Kazi, Teta and Libuše) takes over. Libuše is the one who becomes the ruler of the tribe after her father's death. – According to the blind elder man, a dangerous wild boar threatens the people near the castle. The strong man Bivoj encounters it when he goes into the forest in the snow. He brings him to the castle hall where there is a large gathering. Here he kills the wild boar in battle with a spear. The young man amazes Kazi and he is also attracted to her. – Libuše rules wisely. But during a dispute between the brothers, one of them confronts her. Vladyka complains that women can and does rule men. Alone in the sacred grove, Libuše sees the future. She sends three elders, whom the old man leads to Stadice to see Přemysl. The ploughman in his bast shoes plants a seed into the ground, which later grows into a tree. The messengers bring him to Vyšehrad and Libuše gives him Bohemus' cane. Everyone recognizes the new ruler. – However, Libuše's companion does not approve of the transfer of power. They leave Vyšehrad and establish the fortress of Děvín on the opposite hill. – During the midsummer, the women trick Ctirad and his guide into taking possession of the tree when the young man wants to help Šárka, who is intentionally tied to the tree. The captives are thrown into a dark cave at Děvín. But Šárka and Ctirad fall in love. – A young boy who saw Ctirad's captivity informs the men. – The women of the castle see smoke signals, and dancing warriors appear in their vision. The men secretly infiltrate Děvín. Šárka frees Ctirad and his companion. The leader of the women, Vlasta, refuses to accept the defeat. She aims her spear at Ctirad but Šárka gets in the way. The other women join her, and they start to dance with the warriors. Eventually the lonely Vlasta leaves. – After Přemysl, other dukes (Nezamysl, Mnata, Vojen and Mnislav) ruled before Duke Křesomysl took over. At that time, people began to dig for gold and other metals and overlooked wokrking their fields because of this. Some people did not like this. Their leader was Horymír of Neumětely, who unsuccessfully complained to Křesomysl about the metal diggers. The smiths, outraged by his lawsuit, attacks Neumětely. Horymír then destroys their Březové Mountains. The metalworkers sue him before the duke, and the ruler sentences Horymír to death. The noble asks the duke to let him ride his horse Šemík once more before the execution. The rider circles around the Vyšehrad courtyard several times, then jumps over the walls with his horse, swims across the Vltava River and disappears. – The fearsome Neklan inherits the reign of Křesomysl. Then the tribe of Lucians, led by the fierce Vlastislav, invades the country. They cause great destruction. The indecisive Neklan must finally listen to the complaints of his servants. But instead of himself, he secretly makes his fearless aid Čestmír the leader of the army. – The Lucians send swarms of ravens and packs of dogs against the Bohemians. However, the warriors resist the birds, animals, and enemy soldiers. In a duel, Čestmír kills Vlastislav, but is himself killed by Lucian archers. – The warriors bury the hero. – The blind old man sings about the Czechs, that they will live on free in the songs of the old men. And their country flourishes...

Crew and creators

Director

Jiří Trnka

Based on

Alois Jirásek (Staré pověsti české – kniha), Kosmas (Kronika Čechů /Chronica Boemorum/ – kronika), Vladislav Vančura (Obrazy z dějin národa českého – motivy z knihy)

Commentary by

Jiří Trnka

Shooting Script

Jiří Trnka

Director of Photography

Ludvík Hájek, Emanuel Franek

Art Director

Jiří Trnka

Sound Designer

Emanuel Formánek, Emil Poledník, Josef Zavadil, Antonín Jedlička (zvukové efekty), Karel Mann (zvukové efekty)

Production Supervisor

Erna Kmínková

Consultant

Dr. Rudolf Turek (archeologie), Albert Pek (historicko-hudební)

Music

Music Composed by

Václav Trojan

Music Performed by

FISYO (Music Conducted by Otakar Pařík), Český pěvecký sbor (Music Conducted by Jan Kühn)

Production info

Original Title

Staré pověsti české

Czech Title

Staré pověsti české

English Title

Old Czech Legends

Category

film

Typology

animatedtheatrical distribution

Genre

folk tale

Origin country

Czechoslovakia

Copyright

1952

Production Year

1952

Production specifications

projection approval 8 April 1953 (konec povolení k promítání 8. 4. 1958)

Premiere

premiere 11 September 1953 /suitable for youths/ (kina Paříž /3 týdny/, Mladých /2 týdny/, Arbes /1 týden od 25. 9./, Aero /1 týden od 2. 10./, Bystrica /1 týden od 9. 10./, Oko /1 týden od 9. 10./, Revoluce /½ týdne od 16. 10./, Dukla /1 týden od 23. 10./ a Odboj /1 týden od 23. 10./, Praha)
renewed premiere 26 April 2015 /suitable for all ages without limit/

Distribution slogan

Colorful puppet film. (1953) / no caption (2015)

Copyright Holders

Národní filmový archiv

Technical info

Duration typology

feature film

Duration in minutes

85 min

Original length in metres

2 480 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, commentary

Subtitles languages

without subtitles

Opening/End credits languages

Czech

Awards

Vítěz

Festival: 4. mezinárodní filmový festival Londýn

1960
Londýn / Great Britain

Vítěz

Festival: 2. mezinárodní filmový festival Londýn

1958
Londýn / Great Britain

Vítěz

Festival: 5. světový festival mládeže a studentstva Varšava

1955
Varšava / Poland
Jiří Trnka

Vítěz

Festival: 1. mezinárodní filmový festival Mar del Plata

1954
Mar del Plata / Argentina

Vítěz

Festival: 1. mezinárodní festival dokumentárních a experimentálních filmů Montevideo

1954
Montevideo / Uruguay

Vítěz

Festival: 7. mezinárodní filmový festival Locarno

1953
Locarno / Switzerland

Vítěz

Festival: 14. mezinárodní filmový festival Benátky

1953
Benátky / Italy
Jiří Trnka

Vítěz

Event: Umělecké prémie

1953
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Jiří Trnka

Vítěz

Festival: 14. mezinárodní filmový festival Benátky

1953
Benátky / Italy
Jiří Trnka

Vítěz

Festival: 14. mezinárodní filmový festival Benátky

1953
Benátky / Italy
Jiří Trnka