Czech film Romance for Bugle (Romance pro kridlovku) (1967) directed by legendary filmmaker Otakar Vávra from an epic lyrical poem by František Hrubín is tragically poignant but lacks interesting characters and dramatic tension.
2.5 out of 4 stars
Doomed from the start
Vojta returns home to come across a man who seems very familiar to him. He asks the man if he is Viktor. When he tells that he indeed is Viktor, Vojta immediately asks him how Terina is. It becomes clear that Vojta and Terina once were lovers. Thus begins the story of doomed love. Viktor takes Vojta to meet Terina. But soon Vojta realizes they are not going to a home but a grave. From this moment, we go back to the past to see how this tragic love story unfolded.
In the good old days, Vojta liked Terina, who worked at a carnival with her family. But that relationship was evolving only gradually. Her family, and more importantly, a jealous young Viktor who too worked at the carnival, kept a constant watch on her. Viktor, though considerably older than the teenager Terina, was in love with her. Therefore, Vojta had a difficult time advancing his love affair.
the other woman
But we are not supposed to feel sorry for Vojta. Turns out that the young Vojta actually used to juggle around two women. The other woman was an older lady called Tonka, who had fun in exploring the sexual needs of the young Vojta. But Vojta was also a very caring family man. He kept very good care of his grandfather, who in his old age was having psychological issues. When his love for his grandfather gets tested, he passes the exam with flying colors.
Films like these have an advantage as they hook the viewer from the start. We are interested to know what happened and why. Therefore, we are engaged. Also, a tragic love story means that people are going to be touched. Sorrow always touches more. The challenge for the film then is to make itself interesting in the middle, so that people stop anticipating and instead invest at the moment.
It is here that the film falters. We get a layered character in Vojta. But the girl who is supposed to be the center of the film, Terina, is bland and devoid of psychological depths. Similarly monotone is the young Viktor. The character that stands out right from moment one is Tonka. She is a natural magnet, as she makes us curious about what internal currents drove her to such wildness of character. The moment she sees a dead body, the change in her is acute and brings a new dimension to her. But she is kept tertiary. Equally unexplored is the grandfather, whose illusions are obvious reflections of Vojta and Terina’s dreams of their future.
High potentials, but…
The source of the film was an epic lyrical poem by František Hrubín. Hrubín was a playwright, translator, prose writer, and a writer of children’s fairy tales. But he is most famous in Czech as the creator of love and natural poems in the country. As a poet, he is highly influential and his works have inspired many international films.
Additionally, the director of the film was Otakar Vávra, who is widely known for poetic intense films. As the young Vojta, Jaromír Hanzlík brings intensity to the role. He appears more mature than such adolescent characters generally are, which is a refreshing change. But the film around him lacks intense engaging layers that evoke cinematic dramatic tensions. Thus it had high potentiality, but transforming from the source poem to a film script, the work required more material.