Jaromil Jireš’s brilliant adaptation of Milan Kundera’s novel tells the fragmentary tale of a man expelled from the Communist Party because of a political joke. After “rehabilitation” in the mines and a stint in prison, he hatches a revenge plot against the former friend who betrayed him. Made near the end of the Czech New Wave, The Joke is acknowledged as one of its greatest works. —The Criterion Collection
Having finished his studies at the Prague Film School, Jaromil Jireš entered filmmaking at the end of the 1950s with several short films, the most engaging of which was Sál ztracených kroku (The Hall of Lost Steps). In 1963 he made his debut in feature-length films with the picture Křik (The Cry), which earned him a place among the ranks of young directors striving for new content and a new film language. In his debut Jireš reacts to modern film currents, above all to the stylistics of the cinéma vérité, whose elements he utilizes, conscious, of course, of the danger that this can hold for the representation of reality and the expression of truth. The story of The Cry suppresses traditional dramatic structure. It consists of the fragmentary memories of the two main protagonists, a husband and wife, on the day their child is to be born. Arranging individual recollections, combining fictional segments with documentary shots, and using a hidden camera, Jireš… read more
If Godard had a little empathy, he could have directed such films as The Joke. Godard is taught at most film schools but his films are boring to say the least. Jires, on the contrary, is as innovative as Godard regarding his mise-en-scene but he put his heart into his stories. Masterpiece.