Archive of films Old Czech Legends / Staré pověsti české

1952, 91 min

Section: Out of the Past
Year: 2012

Jiří Trnka, who was born 100 years ago, and his longterm collaborators (screenwriter Jiří Brdečka and composer Václav Trojan plus the animators) succeeded with this puppet film in creating one of the most enchanting Czech films treating historical themes. The narrative is both an evocation of the lives of distant ancestors and a compelling visualisation of the mythical stories woven within them.


It’s incredible to think that the spectacular puppet film Old Czech Legends was made back in 1952, and that Jiří Trnka was equally proficient in a number of professions as co-screenwriter, artist, art director and film director and, moreover, he was able to express his ideas via an inventive and supremely modern film language. The style of Otakar Vávra’s famous historical film trilogy from the same period seems prescriptive and stilted in comparison with Trnka’s work. Vávra’s characters could be marionettes guided by the string of an ideological interpretation of history, whereas Trnka’s puppets transformed the jaded heroes of national myths and legends into live characters. Trnka chose his six stories in such a way that he would be able to vary their narrative tone and tempo. He generally got by using a single expression for his puppets’ faces, and anything else he needed he created with animation, specific camera shots, lighting, editing and sound, all reinforced by Trnka’s poetic vision. Their use was unprecedented in puppet film back then, and audiences today will appreciate their special qualities as well. Just a couple of examples: Trnka employs a particular musical motif to imitate horses’ hooves, and an abrupt swirling movement to evoke the subjective perspective of Horymír, who gallops round the courtyard of Vyšehrad castle before his daring leap over the ramparts on his trusty steed Šemík. The tyrannical Vlastislav in The Lučan War is expressively portrayed as a spectre from a terrifying dream – he is affixed with the head of a wolf as he hurtles on his horse, surrounded by a pack of wolves, his blood-red cloak flapping wildly behind him. And then everyone in the auditorium holds their breath at the magical nighttime scene where, in the legend of Libuše, the prophetess appears to float towards the sacred grove....


Národní filmový archiv
Malešická 12, 130 00, Praha 3
Czech Republic
E-mail: [email protected]

About the film

Color, 35 mm

Section: Out of the Past
Director: Jiří Trnka
Screenplay: Jiří Trnka, Jiří Brdečka
Dir. of Photography: Ludvík Hájek, Emanuel Franek
Music: Václav Trojan
Editor: Helena Lebdušková
Production: Studio loutkového filmu, Praha
Contact: Národní filmový archiv


Michal Bregant

Cinema Representative, Distributor, Film Institution Rep.


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