A milestone of the Czech New Wave, Miloš Forman’s first color film The Firemen’s Ball (Hoří, má panenko) is both a dazzling comedy and a provocative political satire. A hilarious saga of good intentions confounded, the story chronicles a firemen’s ball where nothing goes right—from a beauty pageant whose reluctant participants embarrass the organizers to a lottery from which nearly all the prizes are pilfered. Presumed to be a commentary on the floundering Czech leadership, the film was “banned forever” in Czechoslovakia following the Russian invasion and prompted Forman’s move to America. —The Criterion Collection
Forman grew up in a small town near Prague. Orphaned when his parents, a Jewish professor and a Protestant housewife, died in Nazi concentration camps, he was reared by two uncles and family friends. In the mid-1950s Forman studied at the film school of the University of Prague. Upon graduating he wrote two screenplays, the first of which, Nechte to na mn (“Leave It to Me”), was filmed in 1955 by noted Czech director Martin Fri. Forman in 1957 was himself an assistant director on the second of these screenplays, a situation comedy entitled Stenata (“The Puppies”).
Throughout the late 1950s and early ‘60s Forman acted as either writer or assistant director on other films. He directed his first major productions in 1963: Cerný Petr (Black Peter) and Konkurs (Talent Competition). These films had great success both domestically and on the international festival circuit, and Forman was hailed as a major talent of the Czech New Wave. His early films… read more