The Strike (1947) - Karel Stekl
Strike was the first and only Czech film to win the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and watching it today, the film has lost none of its power. It is not overtly heavy-handed like Eisenstein's similarly titled film. Karel Stekl doesnt' make any attempts to intercut the greedy capitalist owners with pigs, or grotesquely shoot them. Seeing how this film was made right at a crucial time in Czech history, its subject matter was relevant. The film is based on a real incident in 1889, but this is used more to create a historical perspective than anything else. Like On the Sunny Side, is almost entirely shot on location. Stekl has a firm grasp of what to do with a moving camera, and some of his tracking shots recall Milestone's All Quiet on the Western Front. Now what is confusing in the film is the strike. There seems to be a strike, but it doesn't seem to be unified, and we are denied a great deal of information. There never really seems a unified front, and that way when the strike is declared officially over, we're not sure if it is any different. There are some great scenes for emotion, and what is most striking is the non-resolution. The film ends with the strike defeated, and no better conditions. The call to arms is much more effective though. We are so used to films of civil unrest ending with a victory for the once opressed, not for the opressor. This is painfully bitter, and makes a historical connection that this intolerable condition will be forever done away with by the Communists. It is a very left wing film, and in today's growing anti-right climate the film is well worth watching. Definitely the better of the two from the opening night.
*As a side note, this series at Facets could not be handled worse. I am unable to attend tonight's two films (which will not be repeated), and I most likely will have to miss the films shown on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. This is by far the worst week that they could have this, and I'm honestly pissed off that there are virtually no encore showings. I only hope that these newly rediscovered films can get an official release.