A film immediately banned after its premiere for its apparent naturalism. In reality, however, a portrayal of distinctive village characters in a world unsullied by ideology, inspired by the photographs of Martin Martinček from Liptov. The will to live and overcome life’s hardships is moulded in Hanák’s vision into a celebration of authentic humanity.
Many of Dušan Hanák’s short films are inspired by creative expression, whether acting, music or the fine arts. When he received an offer to make a film about the work of a classic of Slovak photography, Martin Martinček (1913–2004), he seized the chance to conceive his own distinctive impressions of the artist’s oeuvre. It was not his intention to come up with a mere reproduction of his environment of Liptov and its rural inhabitants; he decided to re-create and develop this world for the viewers through film, crafting a polyphony of human stories. Four of the ten portrait subjects are those whom Martinček discovered himself; the fifth, Adam Kura, one of the major players in the film, they discovered together. The other five Hanák came across himself, accompanied by Vladimír Vavrek, whose photographs play the same role as Martinček’s pictures: the film combines them in equal measure with the images from the film camera, in the same way that documentary shots alternate with staged film pieces. The overall impression is thus one of immediacy and authenticity – in reality, the result of contradictory filmmaking approaches whose collage effect ultimately establishes the film’s unique poetic style. Naturally, Hanák uses other techniques in a similar way – music, song, synchronised and non-synchronised sound and background noise, significant details and local scenery taken both from photographs and exteriors. Hanák observes the individual characters in relation to their surroundings, but he seeks, and finds, the core and depth of their security in the people themselves. What has value in life?, he asks. And the people, sorely tried by fate, tell him: The things which have value in life are life itself, sorrow, joy, merriment, work, God, children and love. “But the greatest of these is love.”
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