The Joke

Director: Jaromil Jireš
Year Released: 1969
Rating: 1.5

A Czech man who doesn't believe in the supposed glories of Communism expresses that disgust in a postcard a girl he's courting ("… Long live Trotsky!"), but the postcard gets intercepted by his University, he gets kicked out and sent to 'the mines' for punishment. The absurdity of having one's life ruined over a silly message is staggering but sadly real, and I'm certain Kundera's source text makes very clear the oppressiveness of Stalinist Czechoslovakia (as he did in The Unbearable Lightness of Being), but Jireš is more concerned with flashbacks and stripped the text of its complexities. Its lead's life 'pre-postcard' is not examined, so all 'we' see is his nasty bitterness and manipulative ways: for all 'we' know, he could have been a real bastard before his real troubles began. The more I see of the Czech New Ripple the less impressed I am - it's easy to see how they lifted the approach of the French masters but come across as a second-rate simulation.