Archive of films Oil Lamps / Petrolejové lampy

1971, 101 min

Section: Tribute to Juraj Herz
Year: 2010

The provincial town during the Sezession era was not a place of human solidarity as it might indiscriminately appear to us today. The courage of young Štěpa to live differently from other people is perceived as inadmissible, and her harsh fate as a just punishment which fails to incite pity. This powerful period study also has a timeless validity, since it demonstrates that ideals generally shatter on the sharp edges of reality.


Juraj Herz was drawn to Jaroslav Havlíček’s inter-war novel by the author’s profound psychological study of his characters, predominantly tragic heroes living a seemingly quiet life in a sleepy provincial town, yet internally consumed by torturous secrets, wasted desire and emotional traumas. Reflected in the bleak fate of the courageous and likable Štěpa Kiliánová, however, the director found another of the themes which play key roles in his film work. Instead of fulfilling her dream to become a wife and mother, Štěpa ends up with a syphilitic husband. Herz saw this as a variation of the harrowing contradiction between desire and reality, whose consequences so often mark his heroes for life. It was also in the contempt and ridicule which the young woman incites, first through her spontaneous rebellion against restrictive conventions, and later through her fearless loyalty to her sick husband, that he saw confirmation of his cynicism with regard to people’s ability to understand those around them, feel compassion for them and to judge them fairly. These reflections are, of course, mediated here in purely cinematic terms and with emphasis on the artistic stylisation which co-creates the sense of the story. The atmosphere of a well-ordered, smart provincial environment at the turn of the 20th century is conveyed through the concept of the false idyll: the undercurrents are polluted and threaten to engulf anything in their midst; exquisite Sezession clothes are worn by unscrupulous brutes, simpletons and egoists; and sweet melodies provide a counterpoint to the scathing words of evil tongues. With Oil Lamps, Herz sealed his reputation as a master of the psychological film, and the performances of Iva Janžurová and Petr Čepek became the stuff of legend.


National Film Archive
Malešická 12, 130 00, Praha 3
Czech Republic

Ateliéry Bonton Zlín a.s.
Vodičkova 38, 110 00, Praha 1
Czech Republic
Tel: +420 224 814 445
Fax: +420 224 814 447

About the film

Color, 35 mm

Section: Tribute to Juraj Herz
Director: Juraj Herz
Screenplay: Lubor Dohnal, Václav Šašek, Juraj Herz
Dir. of Photography: Dodo Šimončič
Music: Luboš Fišer
Editor: Jaromír Janáček
Production: Filmové studio Barrandov
Cast: Iva Janžurová, Petr Čepek, Marie Rosůlková, Ota Sklenčka, Vladimír Jedenáctík, Karel Chromík
Contact: National Film Archive, Ateliéry Bonton Zlín a.s.


Juraj Herz

Film Director

Vladimír Opěla

Film Institution Rep.

Iva Janžurová


Blažena Urgošíková

Film Institution Rep.


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