1971-1980Czech RepublicDramaFrantisek Vlácil

Frantisek Vlácil – Dým bramborové nate AKA Smoke on the Potato Fields [+extras] (1977)


In this 1976 character study by Czech director Frantisek Vlacil, a stout middle-aged physician whose marriage has come apart (Rudolf Hrusinsky) establishes a practice in a small town. Gradually he’s drawn into the lives of his patients—a childless couple, a pregnant girl with a stern mother, the son of a duck farmer—and each relationship reveals a bit more about him and the idyllic but insular community. Vlacil is hardly known for his light touch, but the film’s austere look and elegiac chamber music, at times Bressonian in their severity, convey the doctor’s quest for fulfillment and peace of mind. Hrusinsky, who was blacklisted in Czechoslovakia for his anticommunist stance, ennobles his role by underplaying it.


A measured, evenly paced, extremely controlled, psychologically mesmerizing film about a doctor’s split with his wife, and his subsequent return to his Communist homeland, brilliantly underplayed by Rudolf Hrusinsky, a man in real life who was blacklisted in Czechoslovakia for his anti-Communist leanings, and only the slightest movement in his face could ever be detected. But he was superb in this role, his dignity challenged at every turn, but always remaining intact. He is introduced to a countryside clinic by the local Communist lackey, his quarters are spare and without possessions. Immediately, as the outsider, he is the object of the entire town’s suspicion, represented in a single scene where he is smoking potatoes, something he must have learned as a child, in a small attempt to gather some semblance of himself. Yet across the landscape a cry is heard for him to put out the fire; that’s not allowed; what is he, crazy? Every attempt to help someone is met with whispers behind his back and with the town’s scorn. The psychological pressure to allow so little to be shown, always holding everything inside, as who knows, someone near could, and would use any piece of information against you. This film reminded me of some of the early Kieslowski films, such as the rarely seen CURRICULUM VITAE, where in that film the Communist Party pressure is relentless to obtain confessions from your neighbors for the most ordinary actions of men. To live under the pressure of such a constant cloud of suspicion, where the Party representative is rarely even seen or heard, is wonderfully transparent in this film.
— cranesareflying from USA.
Extras included:

1. Interview – Alois Svehlik
2. Interview — Josef Somr
3. Interview — Vitezslav Jandak

All the extras are in Czech language with only Czech Subtitles.


Subtitles:English (srt)


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