In Vláčil’s parable-like debut feature, a wheelchair-bound boy in Prague shoots a homing pigeon for target practice, then, chided by his artist neighbor, nurses the bird back to health. Meanwhile, a girl on the Baltic coast awaits her pet’s return. Intensely imagistic, the nearly dialogue-free film includes a thrilling action sequence staged between the recovering pigeon and a neighborhood cat. Jan Čuříks’s stunning black-and-white cinematography favors high-contrast compositions between sea and sand, cityscape and sky. One of the key films in the emerging cinematic sensibility of the 1960s that would coalesce into the Czech New Wave by the decade’s end. –AFI
Frantisek Vlacil was born in Cesky Tesin and spent his childhood and early adulthood in northern Moravia and Brno. His father was an attorney, but, at the end of World War I, after he returned from his sojourn with the Czech Legion in Russia, he remained in the military. His mother was Czech, but when she was six months old, her family moved to Russia. She returned to Czechoslovakia in 1919.
Frantisek started to display artistic talent at a very early age. After completing secondary school, he studied at the Philosophical Faculty of Masaryk University in Brno from 1945 to 1949, specializing in art history and aesthetics. At the same time, he was active in a Brno-based puppetry and animated film group as well as at a studio that produced popular scientific educational films. He became a permanent employee of the latter in 1947 and gradually became acquainted with all of the professions involved in production. In 1951, on the basis of a decree issued by Minister of National Defense… read more