Biography of Jirî Menzel (1938-VVVV)

Director and actor of Czech Cinema, born in Prague (Czech Republic) on February 23, 1938.


Diploma in direction the school of high studies film in Prague, Jirî Menzel began in the film industry as an Assistant of his companion of studies Vera Chytilova. The two had been together in various school practices, case of the farce at the school of youth crime, but Menzel seemed decided to alternate the direction with the interpretation. So he joined the theatrical company Cinoherní Klub, which eventually became stage manager at the time who filmed one of the four chapters that make up pearls at the bottom of the water. This film was all a generational manifesto of the new Czech film wave, composed of the directors Vera Chytilová, Jan Nemec, Ivan Passer and the own Jirî Menzel. And, at the time, it also marked the debut of the latter as an adapter of the prestigious writer Bohumil Hrabal, that would work over 30 years and that sheds as excellent balance among other closely watched trains, larks in the wire or videoconferencing, films.

In its beginnings, Menzel film is characterized by its critical, somewhat annoying tone to the Communist administration that governed the destinies of Czechoslovakia. Only the fact that it is living a conjunctural political strife, sponsored by President Alexander Dubcek, allows you to roll the extraordinary closely watched trains, his debut as director of feature films to catapult him to international film stardom. This film, which won the Oscar for best foreign language film, ended up becoming a myth and the most outstanding exponent of the cultural movement emerged in the heat of the "Prague Spring". Raised with economic modesty, the film sortearía that precarious thanks to the combination of eroticism and humorous winks about the political situation, the strength of the Czech people or unchanging optimism of authorities, which contrasts with the hard reality that exists in the country. Combining causticity and tenderness, closely watched trains has been for history as a work that shows what might have been, and was not, reformist communism in Czechoslovakia Alexander Dubcek.

The entrance of Soviet tanks in Prague paralyzes the career of Menzel, which thanks to its previous success has managed to finish two more films: the capricious summer poetic and crazy comedy crime in the night club. Czech new wave filmmakers flee the country, except for Menzel, who tries to survive as you can making and more sporadically cinema. Again collaborating with Bohumil Hrabal films in 1969 larks in the wire, a gentle comedy that aims to portray rural life with certain manners tone. But his stay in Czechoslovakia, coupled with the ongoing clashes with the authorities, cause that his name is gradually forgotten in the rest of the world and having greater difficulties for implementing those projects that really interest you.

A decade later, the crank man returns in a very modest way to the international scene, but is interoperability that reported you another resounding success. Story about a woman who at one point in its existence feel the tiredness of everyday life and authoritarian impositions, was a tremendous metaphor on the delicate personal situation that suffered from an infinite number of Czech intellectuals. My sweet little village, for his part, momentarily closes the idyllic vision of the rural world in previous films, and manages to be nominated for the Oscar.

Once dropped the Communist regime, the three penny opera marks a creative new twist in Menzel. Adaptation of a play by Vaclav Havel, inspired in turn by a text by Bertolt Brecht, is a profound reflection on the situation in Czechoslovakia under the Communist regime, and how the entire society collaborated with their fears and small miseries, to sustain the network of institutional corruption. That triumphant entry in the Decade of the nineties also allows you to becoming producer, Director of programs for Swedish television, and head of the Department of film direction of the Prague school. A sample of versatility that is accompanied by the management of several theatre plays in which reserves a role as an actor. Today, Menzel continues to be one of the major references of Czech Cinema, and sponsor to promises as the celebrated director Jan Sverák.


As actor:1964: Courage for every day; To place in the crowd; The defendant; If a hundred of clarinets... 1965: Wondering; Nobody shall be laughing. 1967: dita Saxova. 1976: The Apple game. 1990: Martha and I. 1991: Primary school.

As director:

Mediometrajes.1964: Monsieur Baltisbergra comes to die. 1965: At the school of youth crime; Pearls at the bottom of the water [code].1985: Praga.1990: the audience of Havel with the story.

Largometrajes.1966: Closely watched trains. 1968: Summer capricious; Crime in the night club. 1969: Larks in the wire; Body of Diana. 1975: Seclusion close to the forest. 1977: Na samote u lesa. 1978: The man from the crank. 1980: Tijeretazos.1983: books Czech. 1985: My sweet little village. 1989: The end of the good times. 1991: The Threepenny opera. 1995: Life and adventures of Ivan Chonkin.


HAMES, Peter. The Czechoslovak new wave. Berkeley, 1985.

SKVORECKY, Josef. All the bright young men and women. Peter Martin Associates, Ltd. 1978.

-----. Jiri Menzel and the history of the Closely watched trains. Boulder. 1982.

STOIL, Michael. Cinema beyond the Danube. Metuchen, 1974.

L.Fernández Colorado