Who Will Guard the Guard? Dalibor or the Key to Uncle Tom’s Cottage

The fourth and final entry in vet Czech iconoclast Karel Vachek's decade-long "Small Capitalist" series, ambitious docu "Who Will Guard the Guard?..." is really, really, long. Brave avant-garde fests may prowl around, but obvious home is the tube, where cablers can fill about a week's worth of airtime with glacially-paced tetralogy.

The fourth and final entry in vet Czech iconoclast Karel Vachek’s decade-long “Small Capitalist” series, ambitious docu “Who Will Guard the Guard?…” is really, really, long. Brave avant-garde fests may prowl around, but obvious home is the tube, where cablers can fill about a week’s worth of airtime with glacially-paced tetralogy.

In Prague’s National Theater, onstage rehearsal of Smetana’s opera “Dalibor” (involving slow persecution and death of an innocent) is intercut with unidentified talking heads seated in various loges discussing recent Czech social and political issues. Helmer Vachek seems to like big old trees — there are lots of hand-held shots of those, with, cryptically, a red velvet footstool placed in each shot. Kudos to the artist for sheer scope alone, though why non-Czech auds — and, for that matter, his less tolerant countrymen — would want to sit through four-plus hours of this remains open to debate. Tech credits are workmanlike, though Karel Slach’s fisheye close-up probing of onstage singers gets annoying quickly.

Who Will Guard the Guard? Dalibor or the Key to Uncle Tom's Cottage

Czech Republic

Production: An Association of Czech Film Clubs release (in Czech Republic) of a Negativ, Czech TV production. (International sales: Negativ, Prague.) Produced by Petr Oukropec. Directed, written by Karel Vachek.

Crew: Camera (color), Karel Slach; editor, Renata Parezova. Reviewed at Finale Pilsen Film Festival (competing), April 2, 2003. Running time: 250 MIN.

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