Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actor: Jan Sikl
Director: Jan Sikl
Genres: Indie & Art House, Educational, Documentary
This remarkable eight-part series tells the stories of ordinary people caught in the wheels of history. — Composed entirely of home movies, still photographs, letters, and diaries dating from the 1920s to the 1960s, the ser... more »
A Mesmerizing Portrait of Eastern Europe Before, During and
David Crumm | Canton, Michigan | 09/01/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is really a cycle of 8 films that run nearly 8 hours--and I have to admit: I popped in the first DVD one evening to see what Czech filmmaker Jan Sikl possibly could have made out of real home movies--and-- Well, about 8 hours later, I discovered I had watched the whole thing in a single gigantic gulp.
What's so special here? This film is not violent. Unlike almost any other film I've seen about WWII or the conflicts people faced during Communist rule, we don't see any tanks or real gunfire here. (Actually, there's simulated gunfire in one of the 8 chapters about a family who loved to bootleg American Westerns--then wound up shooting their own Western shoot 'em ups, when they couldn't get any more of the real stuff under Communist censorship.)
What Sikl has accomplished here is an enormous project to archive an ocean of Czech home movies, dating back to the 1920s. Then, from that bulging archive, he looked for family stories that would sketch "real life" portraits in various periods of the 20th Century. THEN, he had to go back to the families and conduct long interviews, plus other forms of biographical research, to sort out what all those random film clips "meant."
AND THEN, he chose his final 8 chapters to take us all the way from the 1920s and the dawn of home-grown movie making to the eventual fall of Communism most of a century later.
Special thanks goes to Facets Video, the nonprofit film group, for adding a terrifically helpful chronological booklet to the DVD case. With that booklet in hand, viewers have a handy reference guide to pick out how one family's story intersects with another--and how all of them intersect with milestones in world history.
But, listen! This isn't a "history lesson." Don't think of these films as "teaching" you Czech history. Far from it! These are 8 very engaging family stories--actually covering 6 different families in all. Yes, there's funny stuff here--the main reaction we might associate with the best in home movies. But there's also achingly evocative footage here. Great beauty. And also some haunting, creepy and flat-out disturbing scenes as well. As a viewer, I was taking in Sikl's narrated version of these films on the TV screen--at the same time my mind was racing to fill in subtext and speculate on the darker doorways opened in various scenes. Quite a journey through time, place and culture!
The truth is, I just couldn't stop watching until it was done. And perhaps you'll find the same thing. Almost certainly, you've never seen anything like it. So, go on! Order a copy--and enjoy something truly different.