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Slovak Studies Program

Martin Votruba


Birds, Orphans, and Fools







From the screenplay and dialogues through costumes and art direction to film stock and frame manipulation, Birds, Orphans, and Fools (Vtáčkovia, siroty a blázni, dir. Juraj Jakubisko, 1969; available with subtitles in Hillman Library) was seriously avant-garde. It has remained the highest-rated movie by academics and film aficionados to have come out of the Koliba Studio in Bratislava during its about 40 years of existence.
Clip dialogue
(Magda Vášáryová, voice Soňa Valentová)
And I silently photograph it with my eyes. As everything that’s bad about it. And the more of it I absorb… then, when I carry it away with me one day, the less evil will remain in the world. [Cut away, cut back.] The way someone gets drunk on water, that way I get drunk on everything that’s ugly in the world.
(Philippe Avron, voice Juraj Kukura)
What is it? Why are you barging in here? You've ruined it all.
Birds, Orphans, and Fools had the briefest of theater runs not because of audiences, although it was unlikely to be a popular film, but because of the authorities. While conceived when communist control was at its lowest level in Czechoslovakia, it was completed well after the Soviet-led invasion of August 1968, by which time many of the mechanisms of authoritarian rule were at work again. Birds, Orphans, and Fools takes place in an apparent historical vacuum (undermined by occasional identifiable references, e.g., to the Štefánik monument), in a desolate world with war raging somewhere outside the camera’s frame and the director’s focus. The two male and one female central characters, not unlike some of the hippies in the U.S. at that time, but in markedly different social and historical context, live in a decrepit apartment, go through a series of bizarre encounters and sexual experiences, discuss a range of topics.


Slovak cinema after World War II.


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