The Ear

Direction
Year 
1969
Country
  • Czech Republic
Runtime
96min 
Audio Tracks 
Subtitles 

One of the most absorbing films to emerge from the pairing of screenwriter Jan Procházka and director Karel Kachyňa. Ucho (The Ear, 1970) is a skilfully made psychological drama, reflecting similar characteristics to the surge of quality Czechoslovak films made during the liberal climate of the New Wave in the mid to late 1960s. As with other titles from this time, Ucho (The Ear) is critical of the methodology of totalitarianism – consequently it was only distributed to Czech audiences in 1990. Essentially only two people feature in this intimate drama – husband and wife Ludvík and Anna, who have become accustomed to the constant monitoring and eavesdropping conducted by state authorities. Indeed, they even have a prying “ear” in their home listening to their every conversation. But, one night, after returning home to their villa from a government reception, the ministerial deputy and his wife are gripped by panic. For they deduce that Ludvík is set to be arrested because of a critical report which he helped to write. An anxious and desperate night ensues, as the couple break down their own relationship – one full of compromises, disappointments, and lack of love. Morning brings fatigue, and a terrifying sobering reality: it isn’t over; the nightmare continues. Ludvík’s ministerial boss has been liquidated, and now he is set to take his place...

Kachyňa’s film makes full use of the traits of the tense psychological thriller, evoking paranoia. The intimate setting is only broken by an “innocent” visit by two secret police, and flashbacks to a government social gathering. While the film can be viewed as a comment on the oppression of the Stalinist 1950s, its rich style elevates Ucho to a more abstract and timeless critique. The film itself caused many headaches for its authors during the “normalisation” era: until his early death in 1971, writer Jan Procházka found himself blacklisted. Kachyňa, meanwhile, while able to continue directing, was forced to make creative compromises. Radoslav Brzobohatý and Jiřina Bohdalová, offer gripping performances as the two main characters – but they would never be presented with such juicy roles again. In 1983, Pavel Kohout re-filmed Procházka’s script (as Das Ohr) for Austrian TV station ZDF/ORF. Kohout selected Vienna Burgtheater actors Joachim Bissmeier and Gertraud Jesserer (with colleague Pavel Landovský playing one of the secret police).

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Details

  • Original Title
    Ucho
  • Direction
  • Screenplay
    Jan Procházka, Karel Kachyňa
  • Cast
    Radoslav Brzobohatý, Jiřina Bohdalová, Jiří Císler, Miloslav Holub, Milica Kolofíková, Jaroslav Moučka, Ladislav Křiváček, Alois Mottl
  • Cinematography
    Josef Illík
  • Editing
    Miroslav Hájek
  • Runtime
    96 min (91+ min.)
  • Year
    1969
  • Country
    • Czech Republic
  • Format
    • Black & White
  • Distribution

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