Jaromil Jires

6.5 The Cry (1963)
6.7 Zer/ The Joke (1969)
7.6 Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)

The Slovak filmmaker Jaromil Jires (Czechoslovakia, 1935) was influenced by documentary practice as well as by Antonioni (mood of anxiety and alienation), Resnais (camera work) and Godard (improvised dialogues) for Krik/ The Cry (1963), scripted by Ludvik Aškenazy, shot from a "hidden camera" perspective by Jaroslav Kucera and featuring several non-actors.

Jires made several shorts: Romance (1965), contained in Perlicky na Dne/ Pearls for a Day (1965), based on Bohumil Hrabal's stories, Srub/ The Log Cabin (1966) and Don Juan 68 (1968).

Jires then adapted two famous novels: Milan Kundera's "Zer/ The Joke" in 1969 and especially Vitezslav Nezval's "Valerie a Tıden Divu/ Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" in 1970.

Valerie a Tyden Divu/ Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970), an adapation of Vitezslav Nezval's novel (1932), is a spectacular flight of the imagination, a visual masterpiece like few others in the history of cinema.

A 13-year-old girl, Valerie, who lives in an aristocratic mansion with her stern and religious granma, has a dream in which a young attractive man steals her earrings but later returns them, scolded by his master, the polecat-masked Constable dressed in black. Valerie also sees beautiful women dressed in white swimming and playing in the river. During breakfast Valerie tells granma that she just had her first period, and granma warns her to get rid of the earrings because they belonged to Valerie's late mother, who got pregnant of the bishop when she was a nun in a convent. Valerie's granma got the earrings when she bought the house from the Constable. Valerie is excited because a group of actors has arrived in town, but her granma reminds her that also a group of missionaries is coming. From the window Valerie can see the parade for her neighbor Hedvika's wedding. Valerie sees a man waving at her and imagines that he is the polecat-masked Constable. Her granma tells her that it is impossible because he died. While Valerie is playing the piano, a pigeon carries her a letter. It is signed Orl¡k, and the writer confesses that he is the thief of her dream. He warns her against the Constable, his uncle, who has killed his parents. He warns her that the Constable wants Valerie's earrings and offers to help if she will meet him at the church after the sermon. Valerie imagines her mother dressed only in her lingerie, lying against a tree, and a young man making love to her, while Valerie watches from inside a cage and a procession of nuns passes by. A missionary, who looks not much nicer than the polecat monster, delivers the sermon to the town's virgins. Valerie is the only one not dressed in white. She finds Orlik chained to the wall and unconscious while the Constable watches them. She frees him and he tells her that he has been tortured. They kiss. She imagines a scene of half-naked men dancing around a fountain. Later a man wrapped in a black cloak who looks like the missionary takes her to an underground chamber to watch from a keyhole as her granma whips herself in front of a priest, Gracian, who doesn't love her anymore. Orlik takes Valerie to watch another scene: the Constable in his black cloak and wearing the polecat mask meeting Elsa. She almost faints, recognizing Richard, the man who seduced her when she was 17. She is still in love with him and offers to give him anything in exchange for his secret. He promises to make her young again if she grants him the house. Valerie's granma and women dressed in white roasted pig for a picnic by the river with the missionary Gracian, who tells the story of how he saved a black woman in Africa but then she became a prostitute in France. The missionary Gracian tells Valerie that her father the bishop had another illegitimate child, Orlik. Therefore, the Constable/Richard killed Valerie's father. That night the priest Gracian enters her room and tries to rape her, but Valerie swallows a magic pearl that Orl¡k gave her and the priest runs away terrified. Elsa, dressed in black, signs the contract that gives Richard ownership of the mansion. Richard delivers that very night. It turns out that Hedvika is marrying an old man. Richard and Elsa appear behind them in their bedroom just before the groom takes the bride's virginity, and Elsa bites the young bride to suck the blood that will make her forever young. Valerie finds Orlik crucified on a waterfall, yet another torture inflicted on him by his evil uncle. She blindfolds him and takes him to what she thinks is still her mansion. He tells her that Constable/Richard is a vampyre, who feeds on fresh blood. The plague that is spreading in the village is good news because it will deprive the evil monster of the blood he needs. At the mansion they find Gracian hanging from a window and granma buried in a chest and turns into a vampyure. They also find a young woman who introduces herself as a distant cousin, also called Elsa. The unsuspecting Valerie gives her a tour of the mansion. Only when the "cousin" tries to bite her does Valerie begin to suspect. Elsa steals Valerie's earrings while the girl is asleep and then locks her in a barn amid huge spiderwebs. Valerie wakes up at the mechanical sound of a fan-like machine and sees Elsa having sex with a man and killing him with a bite at the throat. Orlik, instead, outsmarts the woman, steals the earrings back and returns them to Valie. Valerie tells him that they are brother and sister, and Orlik shouts in vain that Constable/Richard is his father. Then things get even more confused because Valerie overhears Constable/Richard telling Elsa that he is Valerie's father, the bishop, and is dying. He is split in two personalities now: one is Valerie's father and the other one is the monster. When Elsa heals him, he turns into the monster and tries to rape her before she faints. Elsa runs desperate to Gracian and kisses the corpse. Constable/Richard deposits Valerie in a coffin, makes fun of Elsa's anguished love for Gracian and tells her that they need Orkik's heart to revive Valier and make her immortal. This, of course, makes Elsa desire Orkik's heart for herself. Both Valerie and Gracian wake up in the crypt from their respective coffins. Valerie leads Gracian out but Gracian, ungrateful, accuses her to have tempted him and promises to punish her. Orlik writers a farewell letter to Varie, that she reads on the fountain. Hedvika is passing by and Valerie kisses her. Hedvika is turning into a vampyre, but they sleep together and make tender love until in the morning Hedvika is healed. Gracian leads the persecution of Valerie, accusing her of being a witch. She is arrested and burned at the stake in front of the priests and of a band of musicians. When the fire has done its job , women pray in front of her pyre; but Valerie has been saved by the earrings . She descents the stairs into a decadent nightclub where Richard and Elsa are feasting flanked by two nuns. A man, insulted by Richard, attacks him with a knife and kills him (a scene propitiated by the magical power of Valerie's earrings): Richard disappears under his cloak and a little polecat emerges. Valerie watches amused, eating an apple, and nobody seems to see her. Valerie goes to sleep naked. When she wakes up, the world has returned to normality. Her granma is an old woman and says that she just went to church. Valerie asks her whether the missionaries have arrived but granma knows nothing about it. Orlik on a horse delivers a letter asking her to meet him in the countryside. There he grabs a gun and shoots and kills the polecat. Granma is dying. On her deathbed she confesses that Richard claimed to be Valerie's and Orlik's father, but it was a lie. Elsa, jealous, kicked Valerie's mother out of the house. Elsa dies before she can answer the question whether Valerie's mother is still alive. Valerie sees her mother and her father, still young, come to the funeral and the dead granma welcoming her. The last scene is only sung, a bucolic picnic that turns into a sexual orgy involving priests, nuns, virgins, old men, her relatives, and the demon himself. All of them eventually congregate around her bed, which has been placed in the middle of a wood. She falls asleep in the bed and they all disappear.

He then wasted his talent in minor movies such as: A Pozdravuji Vlasovky/ My Love to the Swallows (1972), about a girl of the anti-Nazi resistance who is about to be executed; Ostrov Stribrnych Volavek / Silver Heron Island (1976), set at the end of the First World War; the sci-fi comedy Talire nad Velkym Malikovem/ The Flying Saucers Over Velky Malikov City (1977); Mlady muz a Bila Velryba/ The Young Man and the White Whale (1979), an adaptation of Vladimir Paral's novel; the comedy Causa Kralik/ The Rabbit Case (1979); the family drama Uteky Domu (1980); the musical Opera ve Vinici/ The Vineyard Opera (1981), a biopic of folk musician Fanos Mikulecky, a pretext for a tribute to the traditions of Slovakia, scripted by Vladimír Merta and photographed by Emil Sirotek; Neuplne Zatmeni/ Incomplete Eclipse (1982) about blindness, scripted by Daniela Fischerova and photographed again by Emil Sirotek, the Dickens-ian story of a teenage girl who is going blind; Katapult (1983, another Paral adaptation; Prodlouzeny Cas/ Prolonged Time (1984), photographed by Kucera, about cancer; Lev s Bilou Hrivou/ Lion with a White Mane (1986); Labyrinth (1991); Helimadoe (1992); Ucitel Tance/ The Dance Teacher (1994), photographed by Jan Malir; and Dvojrole/ Double Role (1999).

Jires died in 2001.

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