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Slovak Studies Program

Martin Votruba


Jánošík (1935)







The second production of Jánošík (dir. Martin Frič, 1935; available with subtitles in Hillman Library) worked in an image already embedded in Jánošík-themed high literature for about a century by then – the mountains, namely the Tatras, as a mythical realm of free living elevated figuratively above the feudal overlords in the Habsburg Empire and out of their reach, whose symbolism was broadened to freedom from social and political malpractice.
The clip shows seminary student Jánošík (Paľo Bielik) around 1700 as he, affected by a nobleman's cruelty to his family, abandons his original vocation and vows revenge by becoming a highwayman. The sequence edits together shots from places dozens of miles apart horizontally and thousands of feet vertically, and adds an affective orchestral soundtrack with highwayman-themed lyrics from two folk songs in order to convey a perception of the awakening of the monarchy's subjects, understood as oppressed under the Habsburgs, to Jánošík's call, and of their escape to the visually construed realm of freedom in the mountains. Compare Jánošík 1921 and Jánošík 2009.
The star of the film, Paľo Bielik (1910-1983), a policeman and amateur actor from the village of Senica (now part of Banská Bystrica), became professional actor and eventually director who made another film about Jánošík in 1963.


Slovak cinema 1918-1939.


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