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Slovak Studies Program

Martin Votruba

 

She Grazede Horses on Concrete

 

 

 

She Grazed Horses on Concrete (Pásla kone na betóne, available with subtitles in Hillman Library) is a film which lays out serious topics that include a woman's capacity to hold her own in society, sexual mores, and abortion, and balances them with comedy and irony in proportions that instantly made it one of the biggest domestic blockbusters in Slovak cinema.
Its baffling title quotes a verse from a fresh folk song about a woman striving to accomplish impossible feats. Attempts to render it in English resulted in the film being shown and quoted under a range of titles that have included She Kept Crying for the Moon, She Kept Asking for the Moon, A Ticket to Heaven (also the erroneous A Ticket to the Heaven), and Concrete Pastures.
Film release
The premiere was in Bratislava on 22 Dec. 1982, the film opened in Czechoslovakia's Czech-speaking part in 1983, it was released in the former East Germany in 1984 under the literal translation Sie weidete Pferde auf Beton, which was also the case with its Polish title Pasła konie na betonie, while the Hungarian rendition of the title was Betonlegelő (A Concrete Pasture), the latter two countries saw it in 1985.
A quarter of a century after its theatrical release, She Grazed Horses on Concrete on DVD sold out within weeks. The film, directed by the reputed Štefan Uher (director of the lauded The Sun in a Net), made the women at its center stage stand for humankind as matter-of-factly as much of Central European filmmaking had been portraying men's worlds, the quiet turnaround never even became a talking point. It was also the first film that employed a regional variety of the language that would be naturally used where the story took place, which provided an additional layer of humor whose novelty had people rolling in the aisles.
The successful use of the local dialect gave the distributors the idea to have it subtitled in the Czech-speaking area of Czechoslovakia, a rarity in the history of Czechoslovak cinema (a suggestion to have it dubbed fell through; Slovak and Czech, the two offical languages, were used interchangeably and without translation countrywide in all the media and at all levels of government). For the next four years, it remained the 2nd highest-grossing Slovak film in Slovakia since the repressions after the Soviet invasion of 1968, and the highest-grossing Slovak film in the Czech lands.
Plot summary
Johanka (Milka Zimková) had a fling with a well-digger (Peter Vonš) she had not met before and who, she was most likely certain, would never be around again. About 18 years later, she is a single woman respected and recognized at the local co-op farm where she works − except that it does not translate to the same compensation for her as for the male workers − who keeps turning down her life-long suitor, friend, and neighbor Berty (Peter Staník). Her 18-year-old daughter Pavlína (Veronika Jeníková) commutes by bus to work in the nearby city, which gives the village gossips the occasional opportunity to remind her of her unknown father. A resultant conflict with her mother makes Paulína take up residence in the city.
Johanka, prodded by her also-single friend Jozefka (Marie Logojdová), who maintains that a woman without a man is nothing, begins to woo the new teacher Jarek (Jiří Klepl) only to discover later that he is married. Pavlína, in the meantime, loses her virginity to Private Jirka (Ivan Klečka), who promptly makes himself scarce. Johanka fails to consider that she actually has a better life than some of her married neighbors, begins to see abortion or marriage as Pavlína's only options, and places personals on her behalf. Although Štefan (Ľubomír Paulovič), one of the men who respond, turns out to be less than ideal, Pavlína falls for him.
As Štefan's car breaks down on the way to the elaborate wedding party, and the cake adorned with a doll he is bringing begins to melt in the heat, Pavlína, in her wedding dress and tipsy before the ceremony, suffers miscarriage, perhaps as a result of Johanka's earlier attempt to induce abortion that would look like a spontaneous accident. The car that carries Pavlína to the hospital passes Štefan's car towed by a farm tractor, but none of the involved notice.
Screenplay
Milka Zimková's (b. 1951, Okružná) collection of short stories She Grazed Horses on Concrete (Pásla kone na betóne, 1980) was an instant success and has been republished at least six times through the 2000s. Documentary film director Fero Fenič wrote a literary-narrative screenplay on themes from the last of the fifteen stories, "A Ticket to Heaven" ("Vstupenka do neba"), but when he began to work with Zimková on a shooting script, she disagreed with his bleak take on the story and the demotion of Johanka's character to a supporting role and refused him as the film's potential director. Fenič stuck to his approach and directed his reworked screenplay under the title A Juice Novel (Džusový román, 1984, released 1988) at the Barrandov Studios.
Zimková then found an accommodating co-writer in Štefan Uher, who knew her from her roles in his three previous films. Their screenplay absorbed several of the themes and characters from her debut in fiction, but apart from that, there is little resemblance between the book's self-contained tales and the film's integrated storyline.
Zimková said that the title was a phrase used in her village to describe someone who had happiness within reach and then lost it. That local meaning would not have been recognized by most viewers, though. It is a line from a waggish folk song. It continues "she bathed in razor blades..." and depicts a woman acting out impracticable feats. Zimková was key in the film's outcome: she was the author of the original book, co-wrote the screenplay, was familiar with the region where the story took place, and starred in it as Johanka.
Director
Štefan Uher (1930, Prievidza − 1993, Bratislava) graduated from the FAMU (Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts) in Prague in 1955. Among his fellow students were future directors Martin Hollý Jr. and Peter Solan, who also began to work at the Koliba film studios (separated then into the Feature Film Studio and the Short Film Studio) in Bratislava after graduation. Uher first worked in the short film division. His second feature film, The Sun in a Net is still recognized as a milestone in the development of Slovak and Czech cinema.
The cameraman on She Grazed Horses on Concrete, Stanislav Szomolányi, later professor of cinematography at the University of Performing Arts, Bratislava, made nine other films with Uher.
Casting
Milka Zimková acted in Štefan Uher's three previous films. The cast was composed of little known actors, several of them Czechs who were capable of giving convincing performances in Slovak as well as in its eastern regional variety. Many of the extras were hired at Šarišské Michaľany and Fintice, two of the filming locations, as well as in neighboring Ostrovany.
Director Štefan Uher (1930-1993)
Screenplay, book Milka Zimková (b. 1951)
Screenplay Milka Zimková
Štefan Uher
Cinematography Stanislav Szomolányi (b. 1935)
Music Svetozár Štúr (b. 1951)
Editing Maxmilián Remeň (1927-2008)
Art direction Anton Krajčovič (1928-2002)
Language Slovak, East Slovak,
Czech-Slovak mix, Czech
Locations Šarišské Michaľany, Fintice,
Prešov, Ostrava
Running time 1h 18'
Release date 22 Dec. 1982
   
Characters Cast
Johanka, Johana Ovšená Milka Zimková (b. 1951)
Pavlína, Pavla Ovšená Veronika Jeníková (b. 1964)
Jozefka, Johanka's friend Marie Logojdová (b. 1952)
Teča, Pavlína's friend Valéria Jergová
Štefan, Pavlína's bridegroom Ľubomír Paulovič (b. 1952)
Teacher Jarek Jiří Klepl
Soldier Jirka, Pavlína's lover Ivan Klečka
Ján Kerekeš, co-op director Anton Načiniak
Gitka, Margita Kerekešová, his wife Tamara Simková
Pišta, Štefan Kovaľanec, shy amateur actor Anton Trón (1926-1996)
Well-digger, Johanka's lover and Pavlína's likely father Peter Vonš
Tomáš Jakabuch, student from Forestry High School Jaroslav Sypal (b. 1958)
Michal Ovšený, Johanka's brother Mikuláš Laš
Imriško, violinist and leader of the wedding band Ján Németh
Štefan's Mother Mária Godálová (1927-1983)
Ondro Ferdinand Macurák
Katarína Nora Kuželová
Franta Karel Riegel
Uncle Mihál, speaks up
for Johanka at co-op meeting
Ján Mildner
Widow Holcová Alena Fabiánová
Jožko, in the brawl with Jirka Jozef Friňák
Neighbor Želmíra Kačková
Bus Driver Beňo Michalský (b. 1927)
District Agricultural Supervisor Andrej Šilan
Mother Felimáková Oľga Vronská (1920-2002)
Doďo Felimák Jaroslav Trón
Dodo Dyha Peter Benda
Feri Dyha Marián Geišberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She Grazed Horses on Concrete clip 1.

She Grazed Horses on Concrete clip 2.

 

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