The Joke (Zert) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Joke (Zert) Reviews

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May 25, 2017
Interesting, if uninvolving, look at life under Communist rule in post-WWII Czech Republic.
½ April 5, 2017
"comedy" set out to make fun and undermine the achievements of the communist revolution. It sucks.
Super Reviewer
May 27, 2016
Based on a Milan Kundera book, this Czech New Wave satire is over and done within 80 minutes -- not that the story calls for any greater length. Like so many Czech films of the late '60s, "The Joke" focuses on themes of government and oppression, but concurrent gems like "The Shop on Main Street," "The Cremator" and "A Report on the Party and the Guests" were more effective. Middle-aged Ludvik Jahn -- homely, unhappy, unlikable and dull (think John Casale) -- made a trivial joke on a college-era postcard that led the government to conclude he is a Communist. Subsequent persecution and punishment turned his life sour, but he's convinced he can extract some contemporary revenge by seducing the wife of one of his accusers. His pettiness and lack of charisma keeps the audience from fully rooting for him, and this is a rather glum, cynical film with few pleasant sights beyond the vulnerable wife, who's a cute little thing with a cheery spirit that defies her inner unhappiness. Be forewarned: The flashbacks are a bit confusing because the forty-ish lead actor also appears in scenes from his character's past. And unfortunately, the black and white cinematography is rather unattractive, as the camera avoids shadows and dwells on washed-out daylight scenes.
Super Reviewer
July 2, 2014
A year before the psychedelic Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970), Jaromil Jires constructed a tremendously masterful, politically charged, anti-Communist statement that works both as a collage of a multi-faceted, folkloric society, and as a fragmentary tale of unclichéd love and payback.

As it is notorious in the New Wave movement, The Joke questions the validity of Czechoslovak politics in a context of modernity, encompassing the army, art, intellectualism, and with negative nods to certain trends such as Cubism, Marxism, and consequently Trotskyism, the major school of direct Marxist heritage. This is the subtext that pervades the story about a man that was expelled from his University by a seemingly unanimous vote after a handwritten joke by him directed to his girlfriend falls in the wrong hands and is accused of politically incorrect thoughts. Fifteen years later, he plots to seduce the woman of his accuser.

Yet, which one is the subtext? The criticism against Communism, or the broken love story with undertones of payback? It's up to you to decide. Here's why:

Another thing is also notorious in the movement. Several stories by the auteurs that rised during the 60s are told like shattered fragments of imagined fantasies, memoirs, longings, soliloquies, thoughts and first person POVs, where an array of images intervene in the present daily life. These fragments are pieces of a psychological puzzle put against a political backdrop. Then again, this political backdrop is relevant to the ideas being spoken in auteur cinema during the 60s, from the New Wave movements in Europe to the Latin American experimentation of Brazil, Mexico and Cuba. So this backdrop is the gasoline of the characters' motives. All actions are influenced by the surrounding environment, given our axiomatic condition of social and, unfortunately, emotional beings.

Again, one decides.

Filmed masterfully with powerful effects of juxtaposed transitions of style and with an honest look to a society as complex and varied as any other, The Joke is one of the must underseen gems of classic cinema and an important predecessor to the unmatched Ucho (1970).

½ December 6, 2012
You need to be prepared in advance to watch this film in order to appreciate the subtly by which Jaromil Jires, the director, treats the subject of revenge; otherwise you can easily become disinterested with what looks like a poorly made black and white film. My Czech is poor but it was obvious to me that the English subtitles were not doing the film's story any justice. Yes, I dozed off during my first viewing but had to re-watch it because my wife who is Czech walked in on the second half and took an interest in it. It then became obvious that the characters in the present were not necessarily older versions from Ludvik's, the main character's, past. "The first half of The Joke employs a fragmentary structure." Ludvik's life in the present is intercut with his recollections from the past." This approach reminded me of the style used by Josef Skvorecka in his novel The Engineer of Human Souls but with much less intensity considering the medium used to tell this important story. Jires and Kundra collaborated on the film's script prior to the latter's release of the novel, by the same name, from which it was adapted.

Quote: The Czechoslovak New Wave, Peter Hames, Wallflower Press, 2005.
Super Reviewer
May 14, 2012
A young Czechoslovakian man is expelled from the Communist party and sentenced to six years hard labor for writing "long live Trotsky" on a postcard as a joke; when he's released he tries to extract revenge from one of the students on the board that condemned him. This portrait of a wrecked life is an important warning that an inflexible ideology will inevitably used by bullies as a personal weapon and that totalitarian corruption seeps down to a very mundane level. From a novel by Milan Kundera, this has been called the most anti-Communist movie ever produced in a Communist country.
July 5, 2009
czech new wave is love
½ April 15, 2008
An excellent adaptation of Kundera!s book. It is no suprise as he himself adapted the story to the film.
½ February 10, 2008
This movie really sums it up.
November 30, 2007
the ONLY film adaptation of a Milan Kundera novel worth watching. and yes, I'm referring to Unbearable Lightness of Being ... "unbearable" being the operative word there.
November 24, 2007
Excellent adapatation of Milan Kundera's book. DIrector Jaromil Jires does a tremendous job in conveying the bitter ironies and resentments of the time.
October 25, 2007
it is based on kundera's book,kind of a new wave czech movie involves some dark humor.
September 3, 2007
it is such a different kind of humor--i'm not really used to it, but it was really great seeing the czech which i am obsessed with. and the irony is amazing!!
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