Friday, March 2, 2007

Loves of a Blonde, Czechoslovakia, 1966

This film is another example of a Czech emulation of the French New Wave style because it is invested more in capturing the gestures and mannerisms of everyday life rather than creating a carefully constructed plot. The film begins with three middle-aged men from the military reserve at a community party sitting around a table. Across from them are three young women sitting at a table who are disgusted with the attention they are receiving from the middle-aged men. Over forty minutes of screen time is devoted to showcase the awkward situation—both the hesitation and deliberations the three men make to approach the young women, and the attempts made by the women to ignore the attention. One girl (“Andula”?), however, seems ambivalent—if not apathetic—and neither averts nor draws more of the attention. Her story ends up being the central focus of the film. She falls in love with the piano player at the party (who is closer to her age) and tries to move in with him at his parent’s home in Prague. Drama ensues between the parents, piano player and Andula.

Before I go on to analyze Andula’s psychology, I want to answer the lingering question I had while viewing the film: Why does Foreman give so much screen time to the party scene? Foreman dwells on the scene with the middle age men because it allows for a deeper exposition of the characters, their behaviors, social rituals and gender relations. Conventional filmmaking would not devote so much screen time to this sequence because nothing really happens (it does not have a progressive plot and the situation could go on forever.) It has more to do with the behavior patterns of people rather than events.

Andula and the other girls live in a dormitory in some rural part of Czechoslovakia while they work in a nearby factory. The rural town has a tremendously unequal gender ratio due to large numbers of young women migrating to the factories during the country’s period of rapid industrialization. As a result, the women are starved for affection and relationships with the different gender. Under the current communist regime, work is valued as the best interest for the country even if the productivity is pointless. After work hours, the women are bored and have nothing to do in the evening. These societal circumstances are reflected in the film as a comic presence for oblique social commentary: Andula’s story reveals the incongruency between what the communist state preached as gender equality and the lifestyle experienced by women who worked in rural factories. Her alienation is a reflection of her involvement in state-mandated inane productivity that undermines her need to experience young adulthood and intimate relationships. The unequal gender ratio in the rural town and its isolation from the rest of society makes her life a void with little agency.


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