Juraj Jakubisko  

Called the Fellini of the East (Slovakia) but this is only felt in some of his movies and only in specific ways. His films vary widely in their genres, mood and approach, but some reoccurring trademarks include: Characters used as archetypes to represent society's woes, energetic and playful characters frolicking through a tragic life (reminiscent of Kusturica), pessimistic endings and outlooks on society as a whole, and infrequent injections of magical realism, tweaking scenes with playful magic, outrageous events, colorful scenery and costumes, and the occasional surreal sequence. His early period marks much more undisciplined and experimental works, all of them repressed or banned, and he improved and matured a few years after that, creating some uniquely allegorical movies that can also be digested as conventional dramas and comedies, some spiced with slight magic and whimsical flights of fancy, the best example being the epic Millenial Bee.

Of Some Interest

Ambiguous Report About the End of the World, An  
Jakubisko ambitiously attacks the subject of the development and future of civilization and humanity in this epic movie and strange allegory. Although the events take place over 2-3 decades, the mixture of a timeless, mythical village, traditional and parochial living with sudden bursts of ultra-modern technology gives the impression of archetypes of civilization, portraying a large picture inside a small picture with archetypal elements of development, tradition, racism, crime, outcasts, family, drugs, death, law-enforcement, business, as well as pride, madness, love and envy. The epic and dense story involves everything from a doomed triangle of lovers, wolves massacring humans, humans turning into animals, earthquakes, growing hemp as a livelihood, outbreaks of diseases, crime and police, heroic children, alcoholism leading to confused reality and hallucinations, gypsy drama, and a seemingly gratuitous bunch of circus people that live with the villagers including a giant woman, a midget and a monkey. It asks questions about mankind and its probable catastrophic futures, with typically pessimistic views on humanity for Jakubisko. Thematically reminiscent of Terayama's Farewell to the Ark but very different, darker, and more fragmented in its approach, and its focus on the love triangle and village scandals sometimes feels out of place.

Deserter and the Nomads, The  
Delirious Kusturica-esque anti-war movie delivered as an anthology of three stories during three world wars, with a tall, big-jawed, bald man representing death in all three. (Not that a comparison to Kusturica denotes an influence, obviously, except in the other direction.) The first story features a gypsy deserter hounded by soldiers until he causes a violent peasant and gypsy uprising which becomes a massacre. The second shows Slovaks looking cruelly for German spies, hounding the local villagers until the war ends, but an oblivious German troop catches them unawares and another massacre follows. The third is a post-apocalyptic wasteland where even Death is despondent and tired of violent man, old people live naked in strange underground bunkers, and a couple go out into the wastelands to find water and life. Features occasional bouts of surreal visual poetry and hallucinations, delirious energy mixed with comical villagers and wild peasants, and a somewhat bizarre post-apocalyptic world for the third story. Moderately interesting.

It's Better to Be Wealthy and Healthy Than Poor and Ill  
Probably the most Felliniesque of Jakubisko's movies in its free flow of energy and subconscious and one that mixes many elements from his previous movies: The characters are wild, strange or carefree and once again represent Slovak society, this time in more modern times after the fall of Communism. Two women become friends, they both have problems with their men who don't want to commit or are too busy with politics and art. They befriend a strange old psychic nun who claims she was raped by the devil and who can perform real magic, Jakubisko taking his usual injections of magical realism further here than usual. They try to make a living in this new, free and capitalistic society, taking advantage of any weakness they can find in the new spirit of entrepreneurship combined with uncontrolled immorality. They lure men with promises of sex then steal their money and pants, they go to strip shows, sell pictures of themselves as religious icons, or erotica art, buy a gun from the military and get themselves in trouble with a grand robbery, all of this desperate madness leading to violence, thoughts of suicide or brief surreal Felliniesque nightmares.


Birds, Orphans and Fools  
An allegory involving energetic, childish, carefree adults (this seems to be a popular art-house approach at the time) in a very loose, Godardesque anti-structure. Three war orphans, two men and a Jewish woman, live in a strange deserted church playing wild games that frequently cross the border into symbolism or the bizarre, falling in love with each other, trying on costumes, etc. until the tragic end. They represent a lawless, undisciplined society, a lifestyle of joyous madness, careless irresponsibility, repressed emotions and sudden violence, caused by despair and hardships. There are always symbolic birds (ghosts?) hopping around them, they briefly discuss the meaning of life, playfully explore sex, celebrate the end of cinema, and play with old men and children that appear out of nowhere. Energetic, unstructured, experimental, but unrewarding and whimsical film-making that reminds me why I disliked the French New Wave.

See You in Hell, Friends  
A repressed movie finished 20 years after it was started. Jakubisko develops his allegorical style and themes from Birds, Orphans and Fools, portraying a carefree group of people vs. several other bizarre characters as a surreal, symbolic, energetic attack on various social factions and events in Slovakia. A pretty woman (womanhood? family?) shacks up with her lover and his older father (multi-generational bliss? patriarchy?), soon joined by the grandfather (?) who also flirts with her but brings some tension, her happy, vulnerably naked martyr of a daughter (sacrificing the new generation towards ideals?), a donkey (politician?), and two frowning strict women (new socialist regime?). They try to enjoy several activities together, frolic with lots of sex, she develops nightmares, violence breaks out between various factions including military, peasant and religious, various other bizarrely dressed characters invade their territory until it all deteriorates into insane chaos and they build a 'Noah's Ark' on a car to sail through the madness. Perhaps you have to be a Slovak to get anything out of this but I was completely confused as to the points this somewhat berserk movie was trying to make.

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents