Director: Dimitrij Plichta
Starring: Otakar Prajzner, Martin Stepanek, George Sedlmayer
Duration: 95 min.
Young Jakub lets himself be arrested and put in jail instead of the 'sheriff' of his gang. He pleads guilty out of false solidarity hoping the 'sheriff' will appreciate his gesture. This belief only gives him the strength to stand the unbearable conditions in the reform institution.
The Sheriff Behind Bars is a film directed by Dimitrij Plichta, co-written with Vladimír Valenta. A documentary like portrayal of a youth correctional facility in 1960's Czechoslovakia, the film follows Jakub (Otakar Prajzner), a young gang member who takes the rap for a failed heist in order to impress his leader.
It's an interesting little film with a balanced screenplay that tells a moral tale while avoiding traditional good vs evil, or us against them characterizations. Capturing a slice of life in a way that feels authentic, maybe perhaps too mundane at times, but remains fascinating with it's full attention to the details and dynamics of prison life.
Prajzner, a non professional actor, handles the main role of the quiet and naive Jakub well. He's caught up in a rough situation caused by his own misplaced loyalty, and the internal struggle he goes through is fully natural and convincing.
It also features some beautiful camera work, one of the common attributes of Slovak films from this era is the frequent use of crisscrossing lines within the frame, and this film is full of precise shots of the steel bars and barbed wire fences that keep the characters caged in.
Not the most exciting or gripping story, but it's solidly made, and the issues raised are timeless.
— Bonjour Tristesse