The Joke

Intellectually challenging films became established in the 1960s and it certainly wasn’t only Godard for whom the adventure story no longer sufficed; it was the adventure of reflection that mattered. Jireš’s The Joke is an example of this cinematic endeavour: if it weren’t for the viewer continually deliberating the impulses that prompt the hero’s associative chain of memories, and asking why fragments of past and present situations are seamlessly blended together, many of the film’s important connections would never come to light.

Czechoslovakia 1968
  • English
77 min.
  • This film is available in the following territories: Czechia, Slovakia.

The novel The Joke (1967), whose story treads a fine line between the tragic and the grotesque, is to this day a masterpiece of Czech prose examining weighty socio-critical and existential subject matter. This also applies to its cinematic adaptation of the same name: here the director employs a series of associative edits, pervasive shot compositions and resourceful counterpoints of image and sound which together achieve a similar effect to that attained by Milan Kundera in his use of modernist narrative approaches. Crowded out by the protagonist’s per­sistent memories, the present-time action is increasingly supplanted by scenes from the past when he, Ludvík Jahn, was a victim of the grim Stalinist regime. His deformed life holds up a mirror to the countless destinies of unjustly persecuted individuals.

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Director: Jaromil Jireš
Based on: Milan Kundera
Screenplay: Milan Kundera, Jaromil Jireš
Cinematography: Jan Čuřík
Music: Zdeněk Pololáník
Sound: Adam Kajzar
Editing: Josef Valušiak
Production Design: Leoš Karen
Producer: Miloš Stejskal
Costumes: Helena Anýžová
Cast: Josef Somr, Jana Dítětová, Luděk Munzar, Jaroslava Obermaierová, Evald Schorm, Milan Švrčina, Miloš Rejchrt, Věra Křesadlová, Jaromír Hanzlík

San Sebastián International Film Festival

1969 – Jaromil Jireš (OCIC Award)

  • This film is available in the following territories: Czechia, Slovakia.