Monday, July 12, 2021

2021 Cannes Marathon: All My Compatriots


(Winner of the Best Director Award to Vojtech Jasny and Special Mention for Technical Grand Prize at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival)
Written and directed by Vojtech Jasny, Vsichni dobri rodaci (All My Compatriots or All My Good Countrymen) is the story of life in a Czech village from the aftermath of World War II where a group of people deal with the changes of their land as well as what to do next upon the emergence of the modern world. The film is an exploration of a group of people living through the turbulence that was emerging in the now former Czechoslovakia. Starring Vlastimil Brodsky, Radoslav Brzobohaty, Vera Galatikova, Vladimir Mensik, and Waldemar Matuska. Vsichni dobri rodaci is a somber and majestic film from Vojtech Jasny.

Told in the span of nearly 15 to 20 years following the end of World War II, the film revolves life in a small village as they go from this idyllic land of farmers and locals to a town that would be ravaged by communist ideals and leadership to the point of near-ruin. It’s a film that explores a village and the people living in this town adjust to these newfound changes but also to try and find some hope and joy no matter how dire things are. Vojtech Jasny’s screenplay is episodic in some respect as it breaks down from 1945 to 1958 with an epilogue set years later as it play into a village’s evolution and its outcome as it would venture into the modern world. Notably as the focus are on a group of people including farmers, locals, and those who would be these simple village people who gain power by joining the Communist party. The farmer Frantisek (Radoslav Brzobohaty) is one of several characters who encounter these changes as he’s just a simple man that likes to do his job and raise his family but the arrival of the Communist regime in 1948 starts this slow change for everyone. Notably as the lives of some of the villagers go through changes where deaths become more recurring as well as the growing disdain towards officials of the Communist party.

Jasny’s direction is definitely filled with rapturous imagery of the locations in Czechoslovakia in its farm land and rural areas as it plays into this world that is idyllic as the first chapter of the film presents this post-war world where peace is emerging despite the fact that two young boys find handguns and shoot at an old man with real bullets though he doesn’t get hit. It does play into this sense of foreshadowing of a world that is about to be undone by politics as farmers have to adjust to rules but also giving up their land to these political officials. Jasny uses a lot of wide and medium shots to play into the landscape in the different seasons they’re set in as each season and period play into a different mood but there are also these stylish slow-motion images that play into this sense of dread or death that is to come. There would be close-ups in some shots that Jasny uses as it relates to the widow Machacova (Drahomira Hofmanova) and the many relationships she has been in. The film’s third act play into the growing tension between Frantisek and the Communist officials as it shows the people also standing by Frantisek including the elderly.

Jasny does emphasize this sense of community as he’s always shooting crowds whether it’s at a gathering, a town meeting, or a funeral as they would get smaller when the film progresses. Even towards the end and its epilogue where the church’s old organist Ocenas (Vlastimil Brodsky) returns following a period of exile to see what had happened as he’s sort of the film’s narrator to see a village’s evolution. Notably in what it had become but also what was lost but also the people who lived in the village and those who remain. Overall, Jasny crafts a compelling and melancholic film about life in Czech village following the aftermath of World War II and the emergence of communism.

Cinematographer Jaroslav Kucera does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on natural lighting for many of the exterior scenes along with some low-key lighting for the interior scenes at night. Editor Miroslav Hajek does terrific work with the editing as it has some style in some slow-motion work in some bits of the film but also some jump-cuts to play into some of the action and humor. Production designer Karel Lier does brilliant work with the look of the homes of some of the villagers as well as the town hall building and the church where many of the villagers go to as it would evolve to showcase who are still here in the ongoing years.

Costume designer Ester Krumbachova does nice work with the costumes as it play into the evolution of the dresses the young women wear but also the suits of the Communist officials. The sound work of Dobroslav Sramek is superb as it play into the location and the way folk is played on location as its emphasis on naturalism is a highlight of the film. The film’s music by Svatopluk Havelka is amazing for its mixture of folk and orchestral music as it help play into the drama and humor as its soundtrack also feature waltzes and folk themes to play into the small town environment.

The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Pavel Pavlovsky as a postman who becomes an official only to cause the ire of the locals, Josef Hlinomaz as a painter who likes to paint art including portraits of the locals, Ilja Prachar as the photographer Josef Plecmera who becomes a political official, Vaclav Lohnisky as a Communist party member who betrays his community, Vaclav Babka as a tailor who loses his business to the party, and Drahomira Hofmanova as the widow Machacova as a woman of immense beauty who marries multiple times only for the marriages to end tragically.

Vera Galatikova is fantastic as Frantisek’s wife who observes much of the chaos in communism as well as her husband’s struggle to maintain their farm. Waldemar Matsuka is superb as the peasant Zasinek as a man who copes with the death of wife back in World War II as well as the emergence of communism as he tries to hold on to his faith. Vladimir Mensik is excellent as the thief Jorka Pyrk who deals with the changing times that forces him to steal but also deals with the chaos of communism. Vlastimil Brodsky is brilliant as the church organist Ocenas as a man who leaves his role in the church to become an official only to exile himself from the village as he would return for the epilogue to see what the village had become. Finally, there’s Radoslav Brzobohaty as Frantisek as a farmer who is wary of communist rule as he deals with its drawbacks while defying them despite the tactics of the party towards other farmers as he also copes with the decisions he has to make to help them.

Vsichni dobri rodaci is a marvelous film from Vojtech Jasny. Featuring a great cast, lush visuals, a terrific music score, and its study of life in a village following the aftermath of World War II and into communist rule. The film is a captivating look into a period in the life of a village and its people as they deal with changing times as well as the outcome of its changes into the modern world. In the end, Vsichni dobri rodaci is a remarkable film from Vojtech Jasny.

© thevoid99 2021


Brittani Burnham said...

This one I'm not familiar with but it sounds really good.

thevoid99 said...

It was on Turner Classic Movies as I'm sure it's available on Criterion Channel or MUBI. It is considered a major film of the Czech New Wave though the print I saw wasn't great but it's still a fascinating film.