Larks on a String (Skrivánci na niti)

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User Ratings: 171
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Movie Info

It is little wonder that this film was withheld from release by the communist government of Czechoslovakia from 1969 to its release in 1990 at the Berlin Film Festival. What's amazing is that it was made at all and that, having been made, it survived to be shown. The story concerns the irrepressible goodness of people imprisoned by the government in labor camps, as they struggle against all odds to retain their humanity. The story focuses on two small groups of prisoners: one of men, the other of women. They have been imprisoned for such apparently minor crimes as attempting to find out what has happened to missing loved ones. The two groups manage to interact and some romance even springs up between them. From time to time, prisoners are spirited away in a mysterious black car, never to be seen again. Reviewers were lavish in their praise of this film, which is funny, bitter, satirical, allegorical, and rich with imagery that is particularly meaningful to those who endured similar privations through living under repressive regimes. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Larks on a String (Skrivánci na niti)

All Critics (3) | Fresh (3)

Audience Reviews for Larks on a String (Skrivánci na niti)

  • Jul 16, 2014
    This film is a masterpiece. If that hasn't caught your attention, the man responsible for this project is Jirí Menzel, director of <i>Closely Watched Trains</i> (1966). If that hasn't caught your attention either, the film rightfully belongs to the technical and anti-Communist trademark trends of the Czech New Wave. In case you are noticing that most film databases mention this film as being of 1990, you might then argue that the cinematic New Wave was over in the country. That's true. It turns out, however, that this was <b>filmed</b> in 1969, but released 21 years later. As some know, the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia went through different phases of strength and relaxation, especially through the 50s and 60s. Between 1946 and 1948, the country was under the rule of a coalition government with Communist ministers, and in 1948, it became a Communist state. In 1960, however, it officially became a Socialist republic, so this decade presented a more lax oppression of the regime, although artistic freedom was not completely allowed in the media. Still, it was lax enough for a shocking amount of renowned filmmakers releasing both serious and satyrical films that criticized the present regime in the country, including Jirí Menzel, Evald Schorm, Juraj Jakubisko, Jan Nemec and, arguably, Vera Chytilová. Many of them refused to modify the contents of their films to suit the sensibilities of the censors. Thank God, Menzel was one of them. Unfortunately, in August of 1968, the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia was initiated, which restored the oppression of the Communist regime thanks to the Soviet Union and its main allies: East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria. This film began to be made in 1968, some months before August, which was a terrible coincidence. <i>Larks on a String</i> was released until 1990, after the Velvet Revolution of 1989 restored democracy in the country and happened simultaneously with a 3-year extirpation process of Communism in Europe, gaining worldwide acclaim immediately after its release, from the Berlin Film Festival to Cannes. Menzel's testament has the political ferocity of criticism that Nemec had in <i>A Report on the Party and the Guests</i> (1966), his trademark comedy and themes of sexual awakening and exploration, and the search for the definition of the human identity of Evald Schorm in <i>Courage for Every Day</i> (1964), with a scent of contemplative humanism philosophy. That's precisely what the film is and does. It takes a junk yard full of suspicious "bourgeois elements" imprisoned for differing, and sometimes ridiculous reasons, and transforms it into a shockingly iconic location despite its rotten inert structure full of the exploits of Capitalism. They are divided in two groups: men and women. Another division would identify them as prisoners and guards. All of them constantly interact. They romanticize each other. The play. They laugh. They tell stories. They gather their hands around a fire coming out from a trash can. They philosophize. Above all, they fight to define clearly their human existence and retain their dignity, exalting their impulses, prioritizing their feelings and impulses or their philosophical ideals, this latter range including positive, negative, or unsure remarks on epistemological philosophy, Communism, Socialism, Western Capitalism, Marxism, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Chaplin, Jews, Judaism, Christianism, Czech patriotism, and North Korean empathy. It has everything any cinephile could ask for. The humor is sharp-wittedly acid. The empathy towards the characters is easy to build. The brief moments of slapstick humor is a relief for the soul. Some segments are so obviously symbolic that one cannot miss why the censors felt so insulted for 21 years. The whole setting, despite grim, irradiates some implicit sparks of Magic Realism and hope in the middle of oppression in a similar way Vittorio De Sica did with <i>Miracle in Milan</i> (1951). Oh, and it is damn funny. Seriously, if you're not convinced even yet, then my task is done, but you're missing a lot with this one. Do not let its censorship period to be extended even more nowadays. 99/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer

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