Slovakia produced the best-quality films in the sixties, so it is expected that experts have selected a production from this era as the film of the century.
The film 322, a 1969 psychological drama directed by Dušan Hanák, was voted the most exceptional Slovak film by 11 movie scientists and critics.
The Film.sk monthly decided to put together a list of 20 outstanding Slovak films from the past 100 years on the occasion of the centenary of Slovak cinematography, which the country marked last year.
“When creating the list, we left out short films and narrowed the selection to feature films for cinemas without dividing them into feature, documentary and animated films,” Matúš Kvasnička, the Film.sk’s editor-in-chief, said.
Experts were initially provided with a list of 730 productions to choose from.
The winning film, that deals with the disease of both an individual and society, is based on Potápača priťahujú pramene mora (The Springs of the Sea Attract a Diver), a 1963 short story written by Slovak author Ján Johanides.
“I came up with the guilt motive of the protagonist who was once involved in purges and collectivisation,” Hanák said when the film was released on DVD. “I was intrigued by the contradiction that this character could be a good person.”
However, the main character is not a Communist. “We focused on the lives of common people, and party officials were not one of them,” the director added.
The Communist regime’s authorities approved a script for the film in 1967, but filming in Bratislava, Prague and Brno began only after the 1968 occupation of Czechoslovakia.
The film, just like several other of Hanák’s productions, was later banned.
List dominated by the 1960s
Apart from three films, including Hanák’s 1972 documentary Obrazy starého sveta (Pictures of the Old World) which came third, all the productions on the top 10 list were made in the sixties.
Peter Solan’s 1965 film Kým sa skončí táto noc (Before This Night Is Over) was voted the second-best Slovak film of the century.
Works by other significant directors of the sixties, including Štefan Uher, Eduard Grečner, Juraj Jakubisko and Elo Havetta, also feature in the top 20 list.
The jury relied on their personal memory and experience with Slovak films throughout the selection process. “With such a quantity of films, rational criteria could not be applied,” one of the judges and film historian Jelena Paštéková said.
In addition to film classics from the 1960s, they also chose several films from recent decades.
These include the 2003 documentary 66 sezón (66 Seasons) by Peter Kerekes in 8th place, Martin Šulík’s 1991 film Neha (Tenderness) in 10th place, as well as the documentary 5 October directed by Martin Kollár in 2016, which ended in 11th place.
Two female directors
“Please, do not take the list as a hit parade. Think of it as a collection of exceptional films that are worth watching,” stressed Kvasnička.
Yet only two films on the top 20 list were directed by women.
Viera Čákanyová made the documentary FREM, which responds to the current wave of post humanist thinking caused by the development of technology ana artificial intelligence, in 2019. It ended in 13th place.
Eva Štefankovičová’s 1990 film Vedľajšie zamestnanie: matka (The Side Job: Mother), subtitled “a new guide for an intelligent woman to real socialism and …?”, came 17th.
Film enthusiasts can watch all 20 outstanding Slovak films at Cinema Lumière in Bratislava throughout the year, starting on February 12 with Viktor Kubala’s 1980 animated classic Krvavá pani (The Bloody Lady).
“You cannot count excellent Slovak films on the fingers of one or two hands,” concluded Kvasnička. “There are many more.”
Slovak Films of the Century (by Film.sk)
1. 322 (1969, d. Dušan Hanák)
2. Kým sa skončí táto noc/Before This Night Is Over (1965, d. Peter Solan)
3. Obrazy starého sveta/Pictures of the Old World (1972, d. Dušan Hanák)
4. Organ/The Organ (1964, d. Štefan Uher)
5. Slnko v sieti/The Sun in a Net (1962, d. Štefan Uher)
6. Drak sa vracia/The Return of Dragon (1967, d. Eduard Grečner)
7. Boxer a smrť/The Boxer (1962, d. Peter Solan)
8. 66 sezón/66 Seasons (2003, d. Peter Kerekes)
9. Vtáčkovia, siroty a blázni/Birds, Orphans and Fools (1969, d. Juraj Jakubisko)
10. Neha/Tenderness (1991, d. Martin Šulík)
11. 5 October (2016, d. Martin Kollar)
12. Kristove roky/The Prime of Life (1967, d. Juraj Jakubisko)
13. FREM (2019, d. Viera Čákanyová)
14. Slávnosť v botanickej záhrade/Celebration in the Botanical Garden (1969, d. Elo Havetta)
15. Všetko čo mám rád/Everything I Like (1992, d. Martin Šulík)
16. Zbehovia a pútnici/The Deserters and the Nomads (1968, d. Juraj Jakubisko)
17. Vedľajšie zamestnanie: matka/The Side Job: Mother (1990, d. Eva Štefankovičová)
18. Kapitán Dabač/Captain Dabač (1959, d. Paľo Bielik)
19. Posledný autoportrét/The Last Self-Portrait (2018, d. Marek Kuboš)
20. Krvavá pani/The Bloody Lady (1980, d. Viktor Kubal)