Kachyna, Karel

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Nationality: Czech. Born: Vyskov, Czechoslovakia, 1 May 1924. Education: Film Academy (FAMU), Prague, 1947–51. Career: Associated with co-director Vojtěch Jasný, 1949–55; after working for Armed Forces Film Studio, joined Barrandov Film Studios, 1959; associated with writer Jan Procházka, late 1950s-1970. Awards: Czech Film Critics Award, for Smugglers of Death, 1959.

Films as Director:


Není stále zamrečeno (The Clouds Will Roll Away) (co-d, co-sc with Vojtěch Jasný, ph); Vedeli si rady (They Know What to Do) (co-d, co-sc, ph)


Za život radostný (For a Joyful Life) (co-d, co-sc with Jasný)


Neobyˇejná léta (Extraordinary Years) (co-d, co-sc)


Lidé jednoho srdce (People of One Heart) (co-d, co-sc, co-ph)


Stará činská opera (Old Chinese Opera) (co-d, co-sc, ph); Z čínskëo zápisniku (From a Chinese Notebook) (co-d, co-sc, ph)


Dnes večer všechno skonči (Everything Ends Tonight) (co-d, co-sc)


Ztracená stopa (The Lost Track) (+ sc); Křivé zrcadlo (CrookedMirror) (+ sc)


Mistrovstvi světa leteckých modelářu (World Championship of Air Models) (+ sc); Pokušeni (Temptation) (+ sc, ph)


Tenkrát o vánocich (That Christmas) (+ co-sc); Ctyřikrát o Bulharsku (Four Times about Bulgaria) (+ sc); Městomäsvou tvář (The City Has Your Face) (+ sc)


Král Sumavy (The King of the Sumava) (+ co-sc)


Práče (The Slinger) (+ co-sc)


Pouta (The Country Doctor; Fetters) (+ co-sc); Trápeni (Stress of Youth) (co-sc)


Závrat (Vertigo) (+ co-sc)


Nadeje (Hope) (+ co-sc)


Vysoká zed (The High Wall) (+ co-sc)


At žije republika (Long Live the Republic) (+ co-sc)


Kočár do Vídně (Carriage to Vienna) (+ co-sc)


Noc nevěsty (Night of the Bride) (+ co-sc)


Vánoce s Alžbětou (Christmas with Elizabeth) (+ co-sc)


Směšný pán (Funny Old Man) (+ co-sc); Ucho (The Ear)


U7zcaron; zase skáču přes kaluže (Jumping the Puddles Again) (+ co-sc);


Vlak do stanice nebe (Train to Heaven) (+ co-sc); Láska (Love) (+ co-sc); Horká zima (Hot Winter) (+ co-sc)


Pavlínka; Robinsonka (Robinson Girl)


Skaredá dědina (The Ugly Village); Smrt mouchy (The Death of a Fly)


Malá mořská víla (The Little Mermaid) (+ co-sc)


Setkání v červenci (Meeting in July)


Cekání na déšt (Waiting for the Rain)


Láska mezi kapkami deště (Love between the Raindrops)


Cukrová bouda (Sugar Cottage; The Little Sugar House)


Pozor vizita! (Watch Out, The Rounds!)


Fandy, ó Fandy (Fandy, Oh Fandy)


Sestricky (Nurses)


Dobré svetlo (Good Light)


Smrt krásnych srncu (Death of a Beautiful Dream)


Kam pánové, kam jdete? (And What Now, Gentlemen?)


Oznamuje se láskam vasim (Let It Be Known to All Your Loves)


Blázni a devcátka (Young Girls, Crazy Guys)


The Last Butterfly (+ sc)


Ucho (The Ear)


The Cow (+ sc)


Prima sezona (The Swell Season) (series for TV)





Other Films:


Věda jde s lidem (Science Goes with People)


By KACHYŇA: articles—

Interview with E. Hepnerová, in Film a Doba (Prague), February 1976.

Interview in Film a Doba (Prague), January 1982.

Interview with L. Hofmanova, in Film a Doba (Prague), November 1986.

"And What Now, Gentlemen?" an interview with Alexandra Prosnicová, in Czechoslovak Film, no. 4, 1987.

On KACHYŇA: books—

Bocek, Jaroslav, Modern Czechoslovak Film 1945–65, Prague, 1965.

Bartoskovi, Sárka and Lubos, Filmové profily, Prague, 1966.

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

CSF—Czechoslovak Cinema, Czechoslovak Film Institute, Prague, 1982.

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

On KACHYŇA: articles—

Melounek, P., in Film a Doba (Prague), May 1984.

Dossier, in Filmowy Servis Prasowy (Warsaw), 16 July 1987.

"'Strat': Ucho (The Ear)," in Variety (New York), 9 May 1990.

Kudriavtsev, S., in Iskusstvo Kino, no. 4, 1992.

Young, Deborah, "Mestem chodi Mikulas (St. Nicholas Is in Town)," in Variety (New York), 14 February 1994.

Wellner-Pospíšil, Michael, in Film a Doba (Prague), Autumn 1996.

Meils, Cathy, "Fanny (Fany)," in Variety (New York), 29 July 1996.

* * *

Karel Kachyňa is an artist with a broad range of ideas which constitute the starting point for his thinking in images. Despite their formal variety, his works bear an individual creative stamp characterized by a play of poetic images precisely tailored to the dramatic structure of the story. Like any original artist who continuously seeks new paths of self-expression, Kachyňa has brief periods which seem to be at odds with the rest of his work. These are the exceptions, the experiments, the preparations for great artistic work to come.

At first it seemed that Kachyňa's main calling would be making documentary films. He has gone beyond these; they served as a point of departure for his dramatic films. His first creative period is characterized by innovatively conceived documentaries which not only captured the facts but also expressed the view of the filmmaker. His attempts to combine elements of fantasy, story, and style led him to the dramatic film, where he concentrated on films of wartime adventure and suspense. In so doing he did not forget what he had learned in making documentaries: to capture reality and transform it into a new artistic image in a carefully conceived story. The culmination of this period is Král Sumavy (The King of the Sumava). Gradually other elements asserted themselves in his films: detailed psychological characterization and a precise portrayal of relationships against the backdrop of a given historical situation. Since he was never an independent writer of his own films, he was able to detach himself from the given material and consider it from a unique viewpoint. He was most interested in the contradiction-fraught relationships of people taking their first steps into adulthood, or the world of children on the verge of some kind of awakening, a discovery of life in the brief interval in which reality stimulates the world of thoughts, dreams, and memories and becomes itself only a framework for a profound catharsis of feelings: Trápeni (Stress of Youth), Závral (Vertigo), Už zase skáču přes kaluže (Jumping the Puddles Again), Smrt mouchy (Death of a Fly), and others. His films are first and foremost images interspersed with brief dialogue, where small details, objects, and nature come to life. He directs his actors, be they amateurs or professionals, in a way that enables them to live the roles they play, to create the truth of life, to shape and express their own feelings and views. His tendency to create intimate dramas, however, leads to formal refinement in which an objective view of reality is often lost.

Kachyňa has been served by several literary works which were sensitively adapted for the screen. But the foundation of his work remains the cinematic poem of feelings, for example Pavlinka, Robinsonka, or Skaredá dědina (The Ugly Village). "I like drawing-room stories set in an atmosphere of feelings, where the leading role is played by image, music, and often by what cannot even be expressed, that which is a part of our lives but is not concrete and cannot even be described. Apprehensions, hopes, dreams, someone's touch . . . I would always like to have these things in my films. I think they are an essential part of the truth of life. And this truth is what film is mainly about. A film will never be a work of art unless it mirrors that truth, however subtly it may strive in other ways to express the most sublime thought," said Karel Kachyňa in one conversation. And it is this credo that he strives strictly to uphold in his own films. After a lengthy period in which he focused on the world of children at the threshold of adulthood, he has turned in his more recent works to an adult milieu.

—Vacláv Merhaut