Cinema Jolly > 18:30


Gustav Machatý


Sunday 25/06/2017


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

What an interesting career Gustav Machatý had – he began in his early teens as a silent film pianist before becoming an actor at seventeen and a director a year later, in 1919, with his own small production company. Soon he moved to Hollywood as an apprentice under D.W. Griffith and Erich von Stroheim before returning to Prague to film an adaptation of Tolstoj’s The Kreutzer Sonata (1927).
Machatý wrote the screenplay for this film with Vítězslav Nezval in the summer of 1929 with the title Chtíč (Lust), and they originally conceived a story set over a period of weeks rather than a single night. Their idea was to release the film in autumn of that same year, but they failed to secure sufficient funding to make a talking picture with all of the complexity they envisioned.
Filming finally took place in February and March of 1931 with a budget of 1.15m korunas. The four key artists helping Machatý were Josef Zora, who would later rank as one of the leading sound designers in early Czech cinema; avant-garde artist Alexander Hackenschmied, who would go on to make Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) with his wife Maya Deren; composer Jaroslav Ježek, whose jazz soundtrack with lyrics by Nezval integrate skillfully into the story; and cinematographer Václav Vích, one of the founders of the Czech cinematography school.
In Machatý’s hands, an enchantingly simple, human story is for the great critic Pierre Rissient the first great talking film. Sound itself becomes both a narrative and visual motif. Devices used for recording and transmission – phonograph, telephone, radio, headphones – enter into the lives of the characters to distract them from their drab, quotidian lives. Sound helps to keep the rhythm of the narrative and urges the audience to reflect on the relationship between what we hear and what we see. Machatý embraced sound when still a new technology and made a film startling and innovative even today.

Neil McGlone

Cast and Credits

Sog.: Vítězslav Nezval. Scen.: Vítězslav Nezval, Gustav Machatý. F.: Václav Vích. M.: Gustav Machatý. Scgf.: Alexander Hackenschmied. Mus.: Jaroslav Ježek. Int.: Ladislav H. Struna (Karel Benda), Magda Maděrová (Máňa), Jiřina Šejbalová (Nany), Karel Jičínský (Mr. Ervín), R.A. Dvorský (Pavel). Prod.: František Horký per AB DCP. D.: 69’