Obchod Na Korze - Film (Movie) Plot and Review

(The Shop on Main Street)

Czechoslovakia, 1965

Directors: Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos

Production: Barrandov Film Studio for CeskoslovenskĂ˝ Film; black and white, 35mm; running time: 128 minutes; length: 3428 meters. Released Czechoslovakia, 1965. Filmed 1964 Barrandov Film Studio; location scenes filmed in Sabinov, Czechoslovakia.

Producers: Marie Desmarais and Eurofilm Ltd.; head of production: Ladislav Hanuś; screenplay: Ladislav Grosman, Ján Kadár, and Elmar Klos, from the book Obchod na korze by Ladislav Grosman; English sub-titles: Lindsay Anderson; photography: Vladimir Novotný; editors: Jaromir Janáček and Diana Heringová; sound: Dobroslac Srámek; art director: Karel Skvor; music: Zdeněk Liška; costume designer: Marie Rosenfelderová.

Cast : Jozef Króner ( Tono Brtko ); Ida Kamińska ( Rozálie Lautmannová ); Hana Slivková ( Evelyna Brtková ); František Zvarík ( Markus Kolkocká ); Elena Zvaríkova ( Ružena Kolkocká ); Martin Hollý ( Imro Kuchar ); Martin Gregor ( Katz , the barber ); Adam Matejka ( Piti Báči ); Mikuláš Ladižinsky ( Marian Peter ); Eugen Senaj ( Blau , the Printer ); František Papp ( Andorić ); Gita Mišurová ( Andoričová ).

Awards: Oscar for Best Foreign Film, 1965; New York Film Critics Award, Best Foreign Film, 1966.



Boček, Jaroslav, Modern Czechoslovak Film 1945–1965 , Prague, 1965.

Hibbin, Nina, Eastern Europe: An Illustrated Guide , New York, 1970.

Whyte, Alistair, New Cinema in Eastern Europe , New York, 1971.

Liehm, AntonĂ­n, Closely Watched Films , New York, 1974.

Liehm, Mira, and AntonĂ­n Liehm, The Most Important Art: East European Film After 1945 , Berkeley, 1977.

Jan Kadar: Study Guide: The American Film Institute , Washington, D.C., 1979.

Habova, Milada, and Jitka Vysekalova, editors, Czechoslovak Cinema , Prague, 1982.

Hames, Peter, The Czechoslovak New Wave , Berkeley, 1985.


Cowie, Peter, in Films and Filming (London), June and August 1965.

"Director," in New Yorker , 12 February 1966.

Wharton, Flavia, in Films in Review (New York), March 1966.

Sarris, Andrew, in Village Voice (New York), 10 March 1966.

Seelye, John, in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Summer 1966.

Cohen, Jules, "Elmar Klos and Ján Kadár," in Film Comment (New York), Fall and Winter 1967.

Livingston, Howard, in Film Society Review (New York), December 1967.

Bond, Kirk, "The New Czech Film," in Film Comment (New York), Fall 1968.

"Czechs in Exile," in Newsweek (New York), 27 July 1970.

"The Czech Who Bounced Back," in Films Illustrated (London), April 1972.

Liehm, Antonín, "En för alla . . . ," in Chaplin (Stockholm), vol. 14, no. 1, 1972.

Haller, R. A., "Interview with Ján Kadár," in Film Heritage (Dayton, Ohio), Spring 1973.

Obituary of Kadár, in New York Times , 4 June 1979.

Moret, H., obituary of Kadár, in Ecran (Paris), 15 July 1979.

Gervais, G., obituary of Kadár, in Jeune Cinéma (Paris), July-August 1979.

" The Shop on Main Street ," in Reid's Film Index (Wyong), no. 6, 1991.

Saperstein, J., "'All Men Are Jews': Tragic Transcendence in Kadár's The Shop on Main Street ," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), no. 4, 1991.

* * *

In the mid-1960s, young, creative artists appeared on the Czech film scene with fresh film and projected a new conception of the present and the past in a new way. The Shop on Main Street , however, was made by Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos in the tradition of classical film, without any particular formal innovations such as complicated dramatic structure or impressive camera work, and even without any visible influence of the international trends of those days such as cinema verité or the French New Wave. The modernity of The Shop on Main Street was not based on any technical characteristics but on its content—on another way of viewing the reality of the Second World War. After a series of movies about the occupation years of 1939–1945, narrating or describing this period in a linear and uniform way, opposing heroism and cowardice, The Shop on Main Street concentrates instead on profoundly penetrating the thoughts and feelings of people who lived at that time and experienced a fear which broke their will to resist and led them to criminal acts. It asks the question whether a human being has the right to build his happiness and personal security on the misfortune of others, and answers that question with a story of someone who committed a crime because he did not have the strength to resist evil.

The locale of the story is a typical small town in the so-called Slovak State (established by secession of Slovakia from the Czechoslovak Republic at the beginning of the Second World War), where the citizens gradually come under the disintegrative influence of the new order organized by the government under the protection of the expanding German empire. Seemingly—at least in the beginning— this influence manifests itself in comical and provincial ways. However, behind all this funny business is a tragic reality—the Jewish residents of the town will be deported to concentration camps and face death. In this situation the moral conflict unfolds, the conflict of the main protagonist whom the viewer meets at the moment when the new society distributes power, rank and wealth. This fellow acquires a portion of the loot and although it is very negligible and almost worthless, still it signifies the first step toward a compromise which, in the end, logically leads him to crime. At the beginning of the story, he is scarcely distinguishable from his victim. Both of them—he a common little businessman, she an aging owner of a small store and a Jewess—used to accept the same moral code and honor the same rules of living. Their collision does not take place at the intellectual level but rather in the deeper layers of life. Its roots are really misunderstanding and misinterpretation of one's own actions and also of the actions of others. The old lady does not comprehend anything taking place before her eyes, anything of what looms ahead. The carpenter Brtko does not understand the senselessness and criminality of his compromise. They both pay for it by their death.

The film is made with an unusual sensitivity toward the need to alternate bearable doses of the tragicomic with fully tragic elements and situations. It has outstanding editing and music, and shows a fine sense for detail. The acting performances of the Slovak actor Jozef Kroner and the Polish actress Ida Kaminska mesh beautifully, and the picture was honored by a number of prizes.

—B. Urgošíkova

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