Jan Němec, the enfant terrible of the Czech New Wave died on March 18th at the age of 79. He was one of the most inventive directors of his generation, whose films exploded with unprecedented creativity against the backdrop of 1960’s Communism.
Once considered becoming a jazz musician, but dissuaded by his father, he made the “practical” choice to become a filmmaker. Němec revered directors Robert Bresson, Alain Resnais, Luis Bunuel, Ingmar Bergman and Frederico Fellini, whose influences are evident in his films.
Nemec’s films are challenging to watch for audiences accustomed to classical narratives. They are experimental in nature, employing haunting imagery, flashbacks and dream-like visions that often explore issues of freedom and censorship.
A Report on the Party and the Guests (1966) caught the attention of the Communist government and they banned him from making films, but it was Oratorio for Prague (1968) that lead to his eventual exile. He returned to Czechoslovakia after the fall of Communism in 1989, where he continued to make films while teaching at his alma mater, FAMU.
In his passing, the world not only lost a true artist, but a hopeful revolutionary who believed that art could create change. He was a true rebel in every sense of the word, one who refused to give into popular demands or commercial ideals. Always searching for a “pure film” language, he was driven by the need to create. Facets is honored to have known Jan Němec, the man and the filmmaker.
Facets Label has released several of Němec’s amazing films, which can be found at facetsdvd.com.