Jason Sanders, Pacific Film Archive
Frantisek Vlacil’s Shadows of a Hot Summer shared the Grand Prize at Karlovy Vary in 1978, and drew comparisons to Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs for its tense tale of a gentle man pushed to violence in defence of family and home. Mixing potboiler plot with Vlačil’s trademark poetry, the film is set in the summer of 1947, when remnants of enemy forces still roamed the Czech countryside. A Moravian farmer and his family are taken hostage by a group composed of different soldiers, who fought on the German side during the war. Czechoslovakia is on the verge of accepting Communism; the fighters are desperate to get to the Austrian frontier. The farmer initially yields to his captors’ demands, but as the ordeal stretches from days into weeks, he realizes that he will have to take matters into his own hands. Some interpreted the film as a subversive parable of the Warsaw Pact’s 1968 occupation of Czechoslovakia. “One of the key films of Czechoslovakia’s otherwise sterile post-Prague Spring era … Fitting a nuanced psychology more attuned to Kieslowski into a narrative more worthy of Stallone, Shadows is one of the rediscoveries of the year”.
Subtitles:English, Russian, Ukrainian, Spanish, Turkish, Czech