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Larks on a String
(Skrivanci na Niti)
Czechoslovakia - 1969
Directed by Jiri Menzel


 

Set in the 1950's, this grim and gritty tale takes place in a Kladno scrapyard where a group of female defectors, now prisoners-of-the-state work, sorting through the metal scraps across the yard from a group of male "political" prisoners.  As their dreary existence grinds by, the men and women form tenuous relationships across the piles of junk, under the sometimes averted eyes of the guards. The guards even help some of the prisoners get together, revealing a relationship between prisoners and guards that is much more "simpatico" than we might expect.  Both guards and prisoners are portrayed as the victims of an oppressive State.  Told with much humor, the grim reality of their experiences is nonetheless depressing. 

We had the feeling that much of the humor was lost in the translation, not only in the language translation, but in the context of time.  The phrase "You had to be there," probably applies here, but more accurately, "You had to be there......then."  Banned in the Soviet Union, the film was finally premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 1990, well after the fall of the communist government.   It won a FIPRESCI Award (Honorable Mention) from the Berlin International Film Festival (1990) and director, Jiri Menzel was awarded the Golden Berlin Bear.

Runtime:  96 minutes

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