Archive of films A Bag of Fleas / Pytel blech

1962, 42 min

Section: Out of the Past
Year: 2013

A film by Věra Chytilová about the quest for freedom and authenticity in a girls’ boarding school. "During filming I essentially made no distinction between documentary and fiction; both are equally adventurous processes. I was irritated by stereotypes; I wanted to achieve authenticity of expression.”


New trainee Eva arrives at a boarding school attached to a textile factory and finds a close friend in the free-spirited Jana. The staff vainly try to make the latter conform to the social model, and the girl’s transgressions against the rigid structures of the socialist institution are investigated by the workshop board. "We are all actors if we have the opportunity to come out of ourselves. We don’t have to be precise in the way expected of professional actors, but we bring the truth of our lives into play. That’s why I provoked the girls and the staff at the boarding school to express themselves spontaneously; I wanted them to be themselves. The dialogue was improvised, I didn’t know what the characters were going to say – and that’s what makes the film ingenuous. What I always admired about non-actors is that they’re prepared to speak straight off, to share their views openly. These people had never performed in front of a camera, so the cameraman merely had to act promptly, using his sensitivity to capture the situations and fragments of what was unfolding in front of the lens,” says Chytilová, describing her creative process. The film will be screened in its digitally restored version.

About the director

Věra Chytilová (b. 1929, Ostrava) helped to put Czechoslovak cinema on the international map in the 1960s with her features Something Different (1963), Daisies (1966) and Fruit of Paradise (1969). In subsequent features as well she responded intractably to the deformation of human relationships, to social problems, and to the political climate of normalisation (Prefab Story, 1979; Calamity, 1981; Wolf’s Lair, 1986; Tainted Horseplay, 1988) and the post-revolutionary era (The Inheritance, 1992; Traps, 1998; Pleasant Moments, 2006). Her dedication to moral issues is also apparent in her documentary work (e.g. Inexorable Time, 1978; Prague – The Restless Heart of Europe, 1984; Flights and Falls, 2000; In Search of Ester, 2005). Alongside a series of accolades, she also holds the Award for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema, presented to her at KVIFF in 2000.


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

About the film

Black & white, DCP

Section: Out of the Past
Screenplay: Věra Chytilová
Dir. of Photography: Jaromír Šofr
Editor: Marie Čulíková
Production: FAMU - Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts
Cast: Helga Čočková
Contact: National Film Archive


Aleš Rumpel

Film Institution Rep., Festival Organizer


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