Intimate Lighting (Intimni osvetleni to the Czech) is quintessentially a Czech New Wave film. It follows the visit of musician Petr (Bezusek) and his betrothed to old friends in a small country town. A moving tribute by Ivan Passer (who was Milos Forman’s co-writer ‘If There Were No Music’ or Kdyby ty muziky nebyly, 1963) to the pleasures of friendship the film retains a wistful, gently comic and affecting tone throughout. Lasting an admirably tight 72 minutes, it invites us to share a weekend in the countryside with six couples and two small children. During this period a series of outwardly unexceptional events and conversations take place; and it is to the credit of the filmmaker that such intimate grouping and their interaction do not peter out into self indulgent free-for all but each scene freely flows to another and at the same throw up a great many truths that are revealing of ourselves from the particular to the general. It is the last Czech film by Ivan Passer, a sympathetically directed study of belonging and feel for the place.
Music plays a large part in the film, beginning with a provincial orchestra essaying Dvorak Cello Concerto predictably without fire and passion and the string quartet rehearsal that for the first time establishes common ground between the three leading men. Among other things there is a brass band accompanying a funeral procession or Grandfather’s snoring which crop up as a leitmotif of provincial life expressed in musical terms.
Petr (Zdeněk Bezušek) and his girlfriend Štěpa (Věra Křesadlová, Forman’s wife at the time) live in Prague and they return to the country to visit Bambas (Karel Blažek) and the latter’s unnamed father (Forman regular Jan Vostrčil). Bambas still nurses some grudge since he was left behind to work as a school administrator and it pops recurringly in their conversation.
Passer delicately counterpoints their low-level squabbling (which, as so often in real life, is never really resolved). Whereas their women hold a more down-to-earth attitude. In addition to Štěpa, there’s no-nonsense housewife and mother Maruš (Jaroslava Štědrá), and Bambas’ unnamed mother (Vlastimila Vlková), who believes that she was abducted by a travelling circus when young.
The lightness of Passer’s touch recalls Jean Renoir at his peak, and comparisons with the latter’s Partie de Campagne (1936) are not out of place. Like Jean Renoir Passer opted to work in America and sadly nothing as remotely touching the promise he had shown in Intimate Lighting came to fruition. Forman’s regular cinematographer Miroslav Ondříček (whose work was completed by Josef Střecha after Ondříček went off halfway to work for Lindsay Anderson) manages to make the lighting look both meticulous and deceptively casual, the slightly off-centre compositions giving an off-the-cuff feel that is in keeping with overall tone of the film as a whole. The scenes with Bambas’ children are small miracles of choreography and cutting, especially Štěpa and little Kaja’s peek-a-boo game interweaving itself into an early conversation, or the dinner-table scene in which a chicken leg changes plate three times before being accidentally drenched.
Passer has a wonderful eye for absurd but strangely congruous juxtaposition, with first a white then a black kitten held up outside the open window for the string quartet’s reluctant enjoyment, or the incident with the chickens and the car, its bloody conclusion rendered oddly poetic by a perfectly-formed egg rolling up to the corpse. ‘The film’s final shot is too delicious to spoil, but Pauline Kael’s description of it as “a freeze-frame closing gag that’s so funny and so completely dotty that you’re not likely to forget it” is right on the money.’(quoted from filmjournal)
For a non-professional actor, Blažek does an extraordinary job of conveying Bambas’ inner melancholy, though it turned out that part of the reason was that he was dying of leukaemia, succumbing just six weeks after shooting finished and never seeing the finished film.
1965, black and white, 72 mins
* Director: Ivan Passer
* Screenplay: Jaroslav Papoušek, Ivan Passer, Václav Šašek
* Story: Václav Šašek (’Something Else’)
* Photography: Miroslav Ondříček, Josef Střecha
* Editor: Jiřina Lukešová
* Design: Karel Černý
* Music: Oldřich Korte, Josef Hart
* Cast: Karel Blažek (Bambas); Zdeněk Bezušek (Petr); Věra Křesadlová (Štěpa); Jan Vostrčil (grandfather); Jaroslava Štědrá (Maruš); Vlastimila Vlková (grandmother); Karel Uhlík (chemist); Miroslav Cvrk (Kája); Dagmar Ředinová (young Maruš)
• Crew: Adolf Böhm (sound); František Sandr (production manager); Ludmila Tikovská, Věra Winkelhöferová (production representatives); Jiří Růžička (assistant director); Jiří Stach (stills); Barrandov Studios plus location shooting in Tábor and Mirotice
check out the other blog of the author:cinebuff.wordpress.com