The Transformative Year 1925 in Czech Cinema from the Perspective of (Writing) Historical Poetics

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KOKEŠ Radomír D.

Year of publication 2023
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description The silent period of (not only) Czech cinema is usually seen as one continuous period, as a sequence of mutually influencing personalities and as bundle of works. In this perspective, the artistic development was held back by commercial ambitions at the expense of more responsible or valuable ones, associated with (a) socially conscious themes, (b) imitation of foreign avant-garde movements, or (c) international stylistic trends. Thus, the silent period is reduced to a few exceptional works or seen through the lens of imported aesthetic features. Such an approach only minimally accounts artistic practices, principles, and norms identifiable and explicable within a particular historical context. This paper argues that instead of focusing on exceptional works, it is important to understand the typical works of the silent period in terms of production, creative choices and aesthetics. By carefully analysing Czech films of this period, along with the conditions of artistic cooperation and production, a less straightforward trajectory of the era emerges, explaining the variability and simultaneity of filmmakers’ long-term preferences in dealing with narrative and style. ___ The paper focuses on the year 1925, which represents a transformative step from the systematic production of Czech feature films to the more fully realized Czech film industry. As a bridge between two periods I identified, the “transitional” one (1918–1924/25) and “pre-studio” (1925/26–1933) one, 1925 reveals some of the shifts and transformations, as well as the continuities and discontinuities previously suggested. These will be approached by examining a trio of important filmmaking groups that, in my view, through 1924 represented relatively separate axes of development in film style and (feature-length) narrative, as well as alternative creative and production models of professional collaboration. Nevertheless, from 1925 onwards, their boundaries began to dissolve, and their stylistic and narrative techniques became intertwined. I argue, that if we want to understand the aesthetic history of cinemas that (like the Czech one) can be described as rather peripheral, small and oriented towards the domestic market, it is necessary to be aware of the existence of several simultaneously developing groups of conventions – and to examine them separately in their own terms before proceeding to explain the general norms.
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