The Joke (Zert) Reviews
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).
Quote: The Czechoslovak New Wave, Peter Hames, Wallflower Press, 2005.