Nationality: Czech. Born: Bratislava, 10 December 1935. Education: Film technical school, Cmelice; the FAMU Film Faculty, Prague, graduate in photography, 1958, and direction, 1960. Family: Married Hana Jirešová. Career: Worked with Polyecran and the Magic Lantern, 1960–62; director of feature films, Barrandov Film Studio, from 1963; director of documentary films at Short Film Prague, from 1965; also TV director, from 1974, specialising in opera and ballet, late 1980s; president of Association of Czech Film Directors, from 1992. Awards: Great Prize, Oberhausen, for The Romance, 1966; Prize San Sebastian, for The Joke, 1969; Grand Premio, Bergamo, 1970, and Silver Hugo, Chicago, 1973, for Valerie and the Week of Wonders; Silver Prize, Berlin, 1982, and Best Director, Calcutta, 1983, for Partial Eclipse; Critics' Choice, AFI International Film Festival, for The Labyrinth, 1992; Great Prize, Harare, for Helimadoe, 1994. Address: Na ostrohu 42, Praha 6, 160 00, Czech Republic.
Films as Director:
Horečka (Fever) (doc) (+ sc)
Strejda (Uncle) (+ sc)
Sál ztracených kroku (The Hall of Lost Steps) (+ sc, ph); Stopy (Footprints); Polyekrán pro BVV (Polyecran for the Brno Industrial Fair) (co-d); La salle des pas perdus (TheWaiting Room) (doc)
Polyekrán pro Mezinárodní výstavu práce Turin (Polyecran for International Exposition of Labor Turin) (co-d)
Houslový koncert (The Violin Concert) (co-d, Magic Lantern program)
Krik (The Cry) (+ co-sc)
"Romance" episode of Perličky na dně (Pearls in the Deep) (+ sc)
Srub (The Log Cabin) (+ sc); Fuga (for TV)
Občan Karel Havliček (Citizen Karel Havliček) (doc) (+ co-sc)
Hra na krále (The King Game) (+ sc)
Zert (The Joke) (+ sc); Don Juan 68 (doc) (+ sc); Dédáček (Granpa) (doc) (+ sc)
Cesta do Prahy Vincence Mošteka a Simona Pešla z Vlčnoval.p. 1969 (The Journey of Vincenc Moštek and Simon Pešlof Vlčnov to Prague, 1969 A.D.) (doc) (co-d, co-sc); Tribunal (doc)
Valerie a týden divu (Valerie and a Week of Wonders) (+ sc); Il Divino Boemo (doc) (+ sc)
. . . a pozdravuji vlaštovky (My Love to the Swallows) (+ sc)
Kasař (The Safe Cracker) (doc) (+ sc)
Lidé z metra (The People from the Metro) (+ co-sc); LeošJanáček (+ sc, for TV)
Ostrov stříbrných volavek (The Island of Silver Herons)
Talíře nad Velkým Malíkovem (Flying Saucers over the GreatLittletown) (+ sc)
Mladý muž a bílá velryba (The Young Man and the WhiteWhale) (+ sc); Diary of One Who's Disappeared (for TV)
Causa králík (The Rabbit Case) (+ sc)
Svět Alfonso Muchy (The World of Alphonse Mucha) (doc) (+ sc); Vtěky domü (Escapes Home) (+ co-sc); BohuslavMartinü (for TV)
Opera ve vinici (Opera in the Vineyard) (+ sc)
Kouzelna Praha Rudolfa II (The Magic Prague of Rudolph II) (doc) (+ sc); Neúplné zatméní (Partial Eclipse) (+ co-sc)
Prodloužený čas (The Prolonged Time); The Swan (for TV)
Cuckoo's Egg: Milos Forman (doc); Eternal Faust (for TV)
Dialogue of Forms (ballet, for TV)
Lev s bílou hřívou (The Lion with the White Mane); I Love NY:Sidney Lumet (doc); F. Murray Abraham: Man andActor (doc)
Dialogue with Conscience of the Past (for TV)
Memento Mori (for TV); Vive la musique et la liberté (for TV)
Antonín Dvořák (doc, for TV)
The Labyrinth (+ co-sc)
Requiem for Those Who Overlived (doc); . . . About JaroslavHavlíček (doc); Mimikry (ballet, for TV); Music andFaith (for TV)
Helimadoe; New York Diary—Alexander Hackenschmied (doc); GEN—Jiří Anderle (doc); GEN—Josef Skvorecký (doc); Music and Pain (for TV); Bambini di Praga (for TV)
Teacher of Dance
GEN—Miloš Kopecký (doc); Rodin (doc)
By JIREŠ: articles—
Interview, in The Image Maker, edited by Ron Henderson, Richmond, Virginia, 1971.
Interview with E. Zaoralová, in Film a Doba (Prague), February 1981.
Interview in Czechoslovak Film, no. 1, 1982.
Interview with V. Kratochvilova, in Film a Doba (Prague), June 1985.
Interview with M. Storchova, in Czechoslovak Film (Prague), Autumn 1986.
Interview with J. Sitarova, in Film a Doba (Prague), April 1987.
Interview with Ralica Nikolova, in Kino (Sophia), no. 1, 1996.
On JIREŠ: books—
Janoušek, Jiří, 3 1/2 po druhé, Prague, 1969.
Hames, Peter, The Czechoslovak New Wave, Berkeley, 1985.
On JIREŠ: articles—a
Sarris, Andrew, "Movers," in Saturday Review (New York), 23 December 1967.
"Jaromil Jireš," in Film Dope (London), December 1983.
Cinémaction (Courbevoie), January 1992.
Mravocvá, Marie, in Iluminace (Prague), vol. 6, no. 1, 1994.
Kundera, Milan, and Jan Lukeš, in Iluminace (Prague), vol. 8, no. 1, 1996.
* * *
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 seeks to convince the viewer of man's connection with the present, the past, and the future, and his close and immediate link with the whole world. (Jireš: "We live in a time when a person's most intimate experiences are connected with the major currents of world events.") The Cry was very well received and won several awards; it is the first pinnacle of Jireš' creative work.
The second pinnacle was achieved in two totally disparate pictures from the early 1970s. One film was Valerie a týden divu (Valerie and a Week of Wonders), based on a novel by the eminent modern Czech poet Viítězslav Nezval. What interested Jireš about the novel was "the juncture of reality and dream and the playful struggle between horror and humor." The other film, . . . a pozdravuji vlaštovky (My Love to the Swallows), is purely Jireš' own. The director was inspired by the life and death of the real-life character of Maruška Kudeříková, a young woman who fought against German fascism during the Second World War. Here, in a different connection, Jireš used the same method of alternating real-life elements and reminiscences, as in The Cry, but for a different purpose, namely, to demonstrate a person's inner strength, the source of her faith and hope.
The following years, in which Jireš made three pictures, were a period of stagnation. The fairy-tale film Lidé z metra (The People from the Metro) and Ostrov stříbrných volavek (The Island of Silver Herons), in which he returns to the days of the First World War, are equally undistinguished. Even less noteworthy is the fantastic tale Talíře nad Velkým Malíkovem (Flying Saucers over Velký Malík). Jireš' creative path took a new turn in 1978 with Mladý muž a bílá velryba (The Young Man and the White Whale). The film is an adaptation of Vladimír Páral's novel of the same name and deals with modern man's uneasy oscillation between a mask of cynicism and pure human feeling. Next came Causa králík (The Rabbit Case), an apparently humorous morality piece with a bitter finale on the struggle for justice against cunning and evil. The heroine of Jireš' next work, Utěky domu (Escapes Home), is a young woman who must face a conflict between her desire for self-fulfillment in a challenging profession and her duties as a wife and the mother of a family. In Neúplné zatmění (Partial Eclipse), about a little blind girl, he speculates on an emotional level about the meaning of life and the quest for human personality. All these films address problems of modern life in the area of the ethics of human relations.
Documentary films form an integral part of Jireš' creative work. Unlike his friends of the same generation, Jireš has remained faithful to the documentary genre throughout his artistic career. This segment of his work shows great thematic breadth. We can nonetheless delineate two fundamental areas of interest for Jireš. In the 1960s his attention was drawn to the folklore of southern Moravia, where several of his short films have their setting. Jireš returned to this region and to this subject matter in a modified form in 1981 with the ballad story Opera ve vinici (Opera in the Vineyard). From the 1970s on, his documentary films turn more and more to the world of art, to music, painting, and architecture.
—Vladimir Opela [translated by Robert Streit]