Birds, Orphans and Fools
Vtáčkovia, siroty a blázni
Czechoslovakia, 1969, 78 minutes
Birds, Orphans and Fools Synopsis

Ranked among the five best Slovak films by Slovak and Czech film critics, Juraj Jakubisko's long-repressed tale of love, death and insanity focuses on the unconventional relationship between two men and a Jewish orphan girl (Marketa Lazarová's eponymous Magda Vášáryová) as they travail a war-torn landscape of bombed-out churches and wrecked homes. Their triangular relationship echoes Truffaut's Jules et Jim - but Jakubisko's protagonists have no romantic ideals; they are all orphans, products of an absurd world in which war, violence and death predominate.

Shot immediately after the Soviet invasion of 1968, with references to key episodes in Slovak and contemporary history, and studded with cultural and historical references, the film evokes the cinema of Godard and Buñuel - and the anarchic air of Chytilová's Daisies. Jakubisko's exhilarating and free-wheeling film is by turns playful, surreal and, finally, increasingly nightmarish. Regarded by authorities as 'decadent and harmful art', the film was banned until the very end of the Communist regime in 1989. Forty-years on, it remains, both politically and formally, one of the most radical films of the Czechoslovak New Wave.

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