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The Cinematic Bodies of Eastern Europe and RussiaBetween Pain and Pleasure$
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Ewa Mazierska, Matilda Mroz, and Elzbieta Ostrowska

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474405140

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474405140.001.0001

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The Touch of History: A Phenomenological Approach to 1960s Czech Cinema

The Touch of History: A Phenomenological Approach to 1960s Czech Cinema

(p.187) Chapter 9 The Touch of History: A Phenomenological Approach to 1960s Czech Cinema
The Cinematic Bodies of Eastern Europe and Russia

David Sorfa

Edinburgh University Press

The films of the Czechoslovak filmmakers, František Vláčil and Karel Kachyňa, employ distinctive formal features, such as shallow focus, action obscured by objects in the foreground and symmetrical image composition, that emphasise the experience of both spectators and characters. I map this haptic visuality onto the importance of phenomenology as the primary philosophical tendency during this period in Czechoslovakia, and particularly consider Jan Patočka’s work on history, freedom and the body. I also argue that this style is a reaction to the dictates of socialist realism. I consider three films in detail: Vláčil’s Marketa Lazarová (1967), often hailed as the most important masterpiece of Czech cinema, Kachyňa’s Kočar do Vidně (Coach to Vienna, 1966) and his Noc nevěsty (Night of the Bride / The Nun’s Night, 1967). All three films are linked by a consideration of Christianity as an institution of political freedom as well as oppression. I consider these films phenomenologically and argue that their concrete engagement with the experience of the spectator creates a strong connection between the historical and fictional plights of the vulnerable bodies of their characters.

Keywords:   Czechoslovakia, Phenomenology, František Vláčil, Karel Kachyňa, Jan Patočka, Haptic Visuality

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