Krumbachová, Ester 1923-1996

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Krumbachová, Ester 1923-1996


Born November 12, 1923, in Brno, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic); died January 13, 1996, in Prague, Czech Republic; married Jan Nemec (a director), 1965; divorced, 1968. Education: Studied at the University of the Arts.


Costume designer, director, and screenwriter.


První Knízka Ester, Primus (Prague, Czech Republic), 1994.

Contributor to periodical, Iskusstvo Kino. Also writer of screenplays, including A Páty Jezdec je Strach (title means "And the Fifth Horseman Is Fear"), 1964; Sedmikrasky (title means "Daisies"), 1966; O Slavnosti a Hostech (title means "A Report on the Party and the Guests"), 1966; Mucedníci Lásky (title means "Martyrs of Love"), 1966; Ovoce Stromu Rajskvch Jime (title means "Fruit of Paradise"), 1969; Kladivo na Carodejnice (title means "Witches' Hammer"), 1969; Vrazda ing Certa (title means "Killing the Devil"), 1970; Valerie a Týden Divu (title means "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders"), 1970; Strata, 1983; Faunovo Velmi Pozdní Odpoledne (title means "The Very Late Afternoon of a Faun"), 1983.


Ester Krumbachová was a well-known Czech filmmaker closely associated with the 1960s "New Wave" period of Czech cinema. In addition to filmmaking, she was also a notable costume designer, scriptwriter, and director. Her friends and colleagues referred to Krumbachová as a type of Renaissance artist. Krumbachová was most active in filmmaking, which was natural because she had studied at the University of the Arts, in the art and graphics branch. After finishing her studies, she worked as a set designer and a costume designer in a few Czech theaters. Then in 1961 she began her film career, also in art and costume design, helping to give a new and modern face to Czech film. In an article for the Central Europe Review, Daniel Bird highlighted, however, that "her rise was not very smooth, and was interrupted by several falls caused by her excessive outspokenness."

She participated in the films of the most significant directors and worked in different genres—contemporary, historical, science-fiction settings. Her participation was always welcomed because for each film Krumbachová approached the problem of design from a global view. Her costumes together with the idea of the work shaped the necessary atmosphere, enforced the story, and defined each character. She had an extraordinarily developed sense of material and color thanks to inspiration from painting. She also managed to work with a wide scale of shades in black-and-white films. For example, in Valerie and a Week of Wonders, Krumbachová brought black-and-white sequences into harmony with colored ones; in the process, an imaginative story clearly came out of the contours of narrative levels. Howard Thompson supports this in a New York Times review by adding: "The exquisite color of Valerie and Her Week of Wonders sustains this admirably conceived Czechoslovak film."

The high point of Krumbachová's lifetime body of work came in the 1960s. During that time she absorbed the atmosphere of permissive politics and the ideas of the Prague Spring of 1968. In turn, her work influenced the politics of the day despite political pressure against some of her films and ideas. Her opinions on life, the status of man in society, and freedom had their own moral dimension. Krumbachová did not change them, neither after the Soviet occupation nor during the ominous years that followed. Therefore, she could not devote herself entirely to her work and develop her talent to its full extent. Her contributions to film during the 1990s stopped entirely and suddenly with her death in early 1996.

Her numerous films have received a spectrum of positive and negative reviews across the twentieth century. Bird characterized her 1969 film, Fruit of Paradise, as "an audacious combination of allegorical narrative and the avant-garde." In a review found on the Pacific Cinematheque Web site, her Valerie and Her Week of Wonders was called "a Czech cult classic." And on the CineScene Web site, Vera Chytilová, cowriter of the film Daisies, and Krumbachová are said to "attack materialism through the exaggerated portrayal of its mindless self-centeredness, while at the same time they offend patriarchal expectations by not making the women cute or sexy in their transgression."



Central Europe Review, May 14, 2001, Daniel Bird, "Can We Live with the Truth?"; May 14, 2001, Peter Hames, "‘Enfante Terrible’ of the New Czech Wave."

New York Times, February 4, 1969, Vincent Canby, "Nemec's Martyrs of Love"; March 11, 1974, Howard Thompson, "Czech Valerie."

ONLINE, (July 11, 2006), review of Daisies.

Internet Movie Database, (July 11, 2006), author profile.

Kinoeye, (July 11, 2006), author profile.

Pacific Cinematheque, (July 11, 2006), review of Valerie and Her Week of Wonders and The Fifth Horseman Is Fear.