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A Society in Distress

The Image of the Czech Republic in Contemporary Czech Feature Film

Jan Čulík is Senior Lecturer in Czech Studies at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. He conducts research into social self-examination and myth-making in Central Europe, using literature, cinema and television as material culture.


Jan Čulík’s book analyses the value system constructed by Czech feature films produced since the fall of communism in 1989. It provides an overview of some three hundred Czech feature films made during this period. Over fourteen chapters, the book shows how Czech film makers have dealt with the legacy of communism and other traumatic past experiences, and how they have borne witness to recent political and social developments in the Czech Republic. In Čulík’s view, Czech feature film constructs an image of society which is still heavily influenced by the so-called “normalization” regime of the 1970s and 1980s, which was created in Czechoslovakia after the 1968 Soviet invasion. Czech feature films bear witness to a society which suffers from fairly weak social and political structures. Many Czech films highlight the subordinate position of women in Czech society and project an image of impractical, inefficient, and aggressive men. In discussing the films, Čulík uses the methodology of Cultural Studies, in which art is seen primarily as a specific kind of social communication within a certain cultural and historical context.


Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-551-9
Hardback Price: £65.00 / $94.95
Release Date: November 2012
   
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-630-1
Paperback Price: £35.00 / $55.00
Release Date: February 2014
   
Page Extent / Format: 390 pp. / 246 x 171 mm
Illustrated: Colour plate section
   

 



Preface


1. HOW FILM CONSTRUCTS IMAGES OF REALITY
Film as Politics and Sociopolitics
The Methodology
Czech Society, the Value System Disseminated by Czech Post-Communist Feature Films and the Findings of the Sociologists

2. TESTIMONY ABOUT THE COMMUNIST ERA
Bitter Statements about Normalization
Normalization, Literature and Film-Making
Conclusion

3. STALINISM: FADING MEMORIES OF BRUTAL OPPRESSION
Imprisonment and Work Camps
The Army and War
A Child’s Perspective
Life on the Edge
The Kafkaesque World of Power
Conclusion

4. LESSONS FROM HISTORY
From Josephinism to the Prague Spring
Moral Integrity and the Dawn of the Modern Era
The Idyll of the First Czechoslovak Republic?
The Demons of War in the Twentieth Century
The Murder of Jews in the Second World War
Ethics and National Trauma
A Subjective Look at History through Contemporary Eyes
Conclusion

5. THE FIRST EXPERIENCE OF FREEDOM
Post-communism: Not Quite What We Expected
Conclusion

6. POPULAR ENTERTAINMENT
Attempts to Make Commercially Viable Films
Present-Day Helplessness
Back to the Bosom of the People
Mainstream Comedies
Conclusion

7. CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY
Rebels and Restlessness
People who will never be Millionaires
Machinations, the Media, the Ordinary Man
Them and Us
How to Fight Death
Society in Distress
Schools
Slovakia
Conclusion

8. CONTEMPORARY RELATIONSHIPS
Politics, the Family, Society
Men and Women
People on the Edge of Madness
Loneliness
Conclusion

9. MAN – IN ANY AGE, AT ANY TIME
People among Strangers and among their Own
Discovering the World
In Spite of Everything
Conclusion

10. YOUNG PEOPLE ON FILM
The World of the Teenager
The Aimless World of Youth
In a Gesture of Defiance
Conclusion

11. THRILLERS
Conclusion

12. FILM AS VISUAL EXPERIMENT
Stronger Narratives, Original Images
Hoaxes
Conclusion

13. EXPERIMENTS THAT SUCCEEDED
Tongue-in-Cheek
A Concentrated Psychological Experiment
Analysis through the Grotesque
A Poetic Fairytale
Philosophical Treatises in Surrealist Images
Conclusion

14. THE BEST FORTY-FIVE

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
FILMOGRAPHY OF CZECH FEATURE FILMS 1990–2011
INDEX


Jan Čulík’s book is an excellent, well-organized, thoughtful, informative, illuminating and thoroughly scholarly work. It is also easily accessible to the general readership. I fully recommend it.
Josef Škvorecký, Novelist. The Late Professor Emeritus of English and Film, University of Toronto

This is a remarkable contribution to the analysis of the value system disseminated by contemporary Czech cinema within Czech society.
Professor Jiří Holý, Charles University, Prague

Jan Čulík, in A Society in Distress: The Image of the Czech Republic in Contemporary Czech Feature Film, confers coherence on his potentially intractable subject by focusing on how modern Czech cinema depicts Czech society and identity. For Čulík, the Czech self-image as evident in cinema is caught between inflated pride and intense excoriation. Čulík’s book is invaluable as a source of information on a national cinema that has long since receded from visibility. Čulík’s analysis is admirably rigorous, pungent and direct.
Slavonic & East European Review


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