(aka 'The Ear')
Directed by Karel Kachyna
One gets the impression from Karel Kachyńa’s The Ear that life under the Communists’ boot in Czechoslovakia during the early 1970’s wasn’t all Pilsner Urquell and pretzels. Shot in black and white, Kachyńa’s study of paranoia and desperation was understandably held from release by the Warsaw Pact immediately upon its completion in 1970, and has only been screened for audiences in the last decade or so. It’s worth the wait.
Karel Kachyna's 1970 The Ear is a harrowing tale that interweaves marital discord and surveillance paranoia. With its portrait of a government functionary who spends a sleepless night wondering if he'll be arrested before daybreak, it's no wonder that The Ear had to wait until 1989 for its Czech premiere; the wonder is that it was made at all. The latter, at least, can be explained by the fact that Kachyna's long-time collaborator, scenarist Jan Procházka, was a government official of some standing - which accounts, no doubt, for The Ear's insider perspective, playing as it does with the couple's knowledge of which rooms in their comfortable house are likely bugged and which aren't. As they discuss the arrest of his superior, the couple moves from room to room, opening and closing doors depending on which conversations they want heard and which they don't. (After a long night of drinking and recriminations about their infrequent sex life, he pulls a bear rug from a kitchen cabinet and lays it on the floor, their bedroom assumed to be bugged.) With its escalating marital tensions, The Ear is as much Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as 1984, with a helping of Seconds for the flashbacks to the official party they've just come from, replaying idle chat that seems menacing in retrospect. (Based only on this film, Kachyna might also pass as Czechoslovakia's answer to Polanski.) With its pitch-perfect ending, The Ear is a surprisingly commercial thriller that tangles with dark undercurrents - a movie ripe for rediscovery.
Theatrical Release: 23 March 1991 (Singapore International Film Festival)
DVD Review: Second Run DVD - Region 0 - PAL
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|Distribution||Second Run DVD - Region 0 - PAL|
Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.3 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.
|Audio||Czech (Dolby Digital 2.0)|
Hames introduction (12:30)
How wonderful of Second Run DVD to bring this film out. A very important and dynamically impacting viewing experience. the image is, as expected, directly related to the its clandestine source and the fairly weak print that it was taken from. It doesn't look especially poor and has a 'thick' appearance to it - I noticed very infrequent 'chroma' (see below) but it was not extensive. The included liner notes and Hames introduction fill in some of the blanks about the film and Second Run are certainly identifying themselves with some excellent titles and acceptably decent transfers. Bravo!