CZECH 315 - The Czech New Wave and Its Legacy
Section: 001
Term: WN 2018
Subject: Czech (CZECH)
Department: LSA Slavic Languages & Literatures
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

This course covers an extremely important film movement in Eastern Europe, encompassing a broad range of film styles, from cinéma vérité (Miloš Forman) to surrealism and the absurd (Chytilová, Švankmajer). It also critiques authoritarian systems, ethnic discrimination, and sexism. Fourteen films are studied and discussed, with accompanying readings. Three medium-length papers are required.

The Czech New Wave was one of the most important film movements to develop in Communist Eastern Europe. It amazed viewers worldwide by demonstrating that within a State-sponsored and heavily censored film industry it was still possible to produce films which were not at all Socialist Realist or propagandistic and which approached life in a more authentic way or alluded to pressing current concerns metaphorically. Coinciding in time (the mid-1960s) with political struggles which were to lead to the liberalization and democratization that came to be known as the “Prague Spring,” the Czech New Wave also involved a remarkable range of film styles: psychological realism, poetic lyricism, “cinema verite,” surrealism, Dadaism, and the absurd. Directors employed an entire spectrum of modernist techniques often in surprising new combinations and hybrids in order to critically examine the decline of ethical values under communism, the lack of individual freedom and possibilities for creativity, the abuses of a repressive police state, the official encouragement of anti-semitism, and the economic exploitation of women. We will study fourteen films by the movement’s major directors: Miloš Forman, Ivan Passer, Ján Kadár, Jirí Menzel, Vera Chytilová, Ester Krumbachová, Jaromil Jireš, Zbynek Brynych, Jan Nemec, and Jan Švankmajer (all films are subtitled). Although the movement was suppressed after the Soviet-led Warsaw pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 (with some its last films banned and not seen outside the studios until 1989), the style and approaches of the Czech New Wave have reemerged in Czech cinema (with Menzel, Chytilová and Nemec still making films) and with new directors like Jan Hrebejk returning to the realist/absurdist arsenal. Now it addresses the unequal economic impact of the rapid transition to capitalism, the continuing lack of true gender equality, and new problems of ethnic discrimination that especially targets the Roma. Furthermore, Czech new wave approaches entered English-language cinema with the directors who emigrated after 1968 and subsequently made films in Hollywood and in Canada: Miloš Forman, Ivan Passer and Ján Kadár.

Course Requirements:

Attendance at all lectures and film screenings. Completing required reading. Three medium-length papers (6-8pgs), the first two of which will need to be revised after receiving feedback from the instructor. Course satisfies ULWR. Participation in class discussion expected.

Intended Audience:

Students interested in the relationship between art, culture, ideology and politics in Communist and Eastern European societies. Majors or minors in REEES, Russian, Polish, Czech, or SAC. Students interested in human rights, ethics, race and ethnicity, and gender issues.

Class Format:

3 hours weekly in lectures with discussions interspersed. Lab component is for the required film screenings, but carries no additional credit.

CZECH 315 - The Czech New Wave and Its Legacy
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
TuTh 2:30PM - 4:00PM
002 (LAB)
W 7:00PM - 9:00PM
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