English Title: All My Compatriots
Original Title: Vsichni dobrí rodáci
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director/Writer: Vojtech Jasný
Music: Svatopluk Havelka
Cinematography: Jaroslav Kucera
Possibly the most famous work of the nonagenarian Czech filmmaker Vojtech Jasný, ALL MY COMPATRIOTS is a trenchant allegory of life under the Communist regime, shot with sublime bucolic élan and fairly won him the BEST DIRECTOR honor in Cannes.
Inhabited in an idyllic Moravian village, this close-knit community Jasný rounds up is particularly male-oriented, a patriarchal microcosm where the fate of ordinary lives is steered by an intangible hand. From the film’s time span (1945 to 1958), inhabitants are divided by political views, tormented by past deeds, succumbed to ludicrous idiocy or outrageous hatred, united behind one good guy but also crumbled when things become menacing. Overall, Jasný manages to flesh out a vivid smorgasbord of characters living under shifting sands with none-too-heavy-handed snippets center on their objects: a four-square peasant (Brzobohatý, full of fortitude), a shifty photographer, a guilt-ridden drunkard (Matuska, strikingly entrancing), a displaced organist, a cleft-lipped thief, an ill-fated postman among others; whereas in the petticoat front, we have a running gag of a jinxed merry widow, whoever dares to court her would be pretty soon pushing up daisies.
But, the film’s strength and value does not reside in the circumspect plot construction, because Jasný doesn’t offer a rounded inspection of the state of affairs, most of the time, audience are passive witnesses of the unjust happenings but barring from peering into the machinations behind those (Communist) persecutors and connivers (they are all schematically depicted as surly pawns), thus it manifests that Jasný’s standing point might not be entirely objective, it has Jasný’s autobiographic influence notwithstanding, but no more a convincing censure of the regime than a frank rumination of an existential philosophy and his unbiased view of the hoi-polloi (both affectionate and matter-of-fact).
Actually what makes this film a marvel to any new audience is its ethnographic portrait of the place and its people, Jasný has an extremely keen eye on faces and lights, the portraitures he captures are magnificent to say the very least (particularly the furrowed visages of the elderly), and sonically, its nostalgic soundtrack (organ pieces, lyrical strains) and diegetic music sequences serve as excellent ballast to those indelible images, somehow, the film is sublimed itself into something might surpass even Jasný’s intention, something should be enshrined as an ardent reportage of its locus and time, a deathless enterprise finds its solid toehold amongst a vastly manifold Czechoslovakian cinema.