Director: Jan Nemec
Starring: Ivan Vyskocil, Jan Klusák, Jiri Nemec, Karel Mares, Evald Schorm
Duration: 71 min.
Distinguished by being 'banned forever' in its native Czechoslovakia, Nemec's film is a masterpiece of barbed, darkly sinister wit, considered the most politically dangerous film made during the short flowering of Czech cinema in the 1960's
The Party and the Guests also known as A Report on the party and the Guests, is a film directed by Czechoslovak New Wave filmmaker Jan Nemec (Diamonds of the Night), co-written by Ester Krumbachová. Originally selected to premiere at the cancelled 1968 Cannes Film Festival, it was released briefly in its home country, before being declared 'banned forever' by Czechoslovak President Antonín Novotný in 1973.
The film's premise is a simple one that follows three couples who start out on a weekend picnic and find themselves invited by a larger group for a lavish outdoor banquet hosted by a charismatic individual. While there is no outright mention of communism, Nemec doesn't even try to make things subtle here. This is a blatantly scathing allegory on unchecked authoritarianism and group social dynamics, where he sends the group from one ludicrous situation to the next, ignoring story or characters for the express purpose of mocking the government system and also that of human nature. Though he does add a nice clever twist, casting fellow film director Evald Schorm as the one person who stands up for himself and gets away with it.
What is significant and scary is how applicable some of his points are still today. Such as the creation and strict enforcement of illogical and arbitrary rules, a problem common even in our free societies. There are also plenty of displays of irrational behavior of people in a group environment, showing it doesn't take much to lead a group to conform and obey even when it clearly does not serve the greater good to do so.
As far as the acting, Jan Klusák is the standout in a wonderful performance as Rudolf, a sadistic bully who waylays the group on route to the party and puts them through a series of bizarre trials, including drawing a line around them in the dirt with his heel which they are not permitted to cross, eventually leading to one of them getting roughed up for his amusement.
It's a solid insightful film with lots of trademark Czech absurd humor, and perhaps I was expecting too much from it because of its reputation for being perma-banned, but as a whole, I did not find The Party and the Guests to be quite as charming or as powerful as some others from this period.
— Bonjour Tristesse