Tribute to Trnka’s genius

18th February 1972, Tribute to Trnka’s Genius, ‘Kensington Post’ p33

Mary Beard


THE SEASON of Czechoslovakian films running currently at the Electric Cinema in Portobello Road has been tracing the history of modern Czech cinema, from the big breakthrough of “SHOP IN THE HIGH STREET,” which although in very traditional vein won the Academy Award as the best foreign film of 1966, through to the totally original work of Milos Forman, Jan Nemec and Jiri Menzel.

This week the Electric is paying tribute to a really great artist, the late pioneer Czech puppet animator Jiri Trnka.

Trnka’s 1969 colour film “A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM‘ is an ingenious interpretation of the Bard. Trnka (who died last yaar) cut down the text to a minimum and concentrated on the special effects.

If you forget the rather complicated plot, the visuals are pure poetry. In the concurrent series “Origins of the Underground Film,” the Electric has been tracing the development of the underground film, highlighting in particular those film-makers who in the first half of the century pioneered in various ways the technical and thematic content which appears in more sophisticated or expanded form in later Years.

Last week’s contribution dealt with the work of the magician of the cinema, George Melies, inventor of the dissolve, double exposure and the fade.

The fantasies of Rene Clair and the expressionistic approach of the German Walter Ruttman are represented this week in LE VOYAGE IMAGINARE (1925) and BERLIN (1927).


LE VOYAGE IMAGINAIRE, featuring Jean Borlin and Dollie Davies, was the last of Rene Clair’s early excursions into the fantastic.

Hean, a timid young bank clerk, dreams that he is taken to the underground retreat of the Fairies, whose magic powers can only be revived by a kiss from a young man.

Ruttman’s BERLIN is an exercise in pure cinema, an impressionistic view of the German capital. It was written by Carl Mayer, who had earlier been responsible for THE CABINET OF DR. CALAGARI, and photographed by the great Karl Freund.

The Marylebone Mercury version of this article included this advice, given during the miner’s strike:

‘Due to the present emergency it is advisable to phone and check viewing times with cinemas’