Central Europe Review: politics,
society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 1, No 10, 30 August 1999

scene from The Awn in Roman Vavra's Co chytnes v zite K A R L O V Y   V A R Y:
Catching in the Rye
Roman Vavra's Co chytnes v zite

Andrew J Horton

The award-winning Pelisky was just one of the Czech comedies to gain critical and public acclaim (see accompanying article). More modest and less adventurous, documentarist Roman Vavra's 1998 feature debut Co chytnes v zite (literally "What You'll Catch in the Rye" but marketed as In the Rye for English-speaking audiences) was also well-received.

The film is in fact three independent stories based around a single rye field at different times of the year. The first one, "The Awn," is named after the abrasive threads emerging from the ears of certain cereals which give rise to the Czech expression: "it's as pleasant as an awn in the arse." As the rye is ripening in the early summer sun, David and Katka go out on a first date to look for corn circles. Katka, who has her heart set on going swimming, is less than keen on the hunt for signs of alien life forms, and it is clear from the outset that the two are not likely to get on well. However, a curious confession from David about the veracity of the "awn in the arse" expression changes the course of the afternoon, and a real friendship between the two begins to blossom.

Vavra on the set with Janzurova

The film's final story, "The Journey" sees the mood of the film switch. It is now autumn, and the focus is on the onset of the autumn years of life. A lonely and desperate woman (played by the well-known actress Iva Janzurova) marries what to neutral observers is a completely unsuitable man. In doing this, she alienates her friends, and it does not seem she will gain much comfort from the alcoholic she is now wedded to. The ceremony itself is a disaster, and on the drive to her new home the lorry transporting her and her husband gets stuck in the mud. The groom's friends all go off for help, but it is clear that they will be soon distracted by a pub, and so the couple becomes resigned to spending their wedding night in a muddy and bleak field.

Some may find the last story a bit of a thematic leap - from the innocence of childhood to the jaded world of adults in one bound. However, the film has a surprising degree of homogeneity about it. Surprising, because Co chytnes v zite is comprised of three independently made films, with the production of the second two parts spawned by the success of the short film The Awn which Vavra directed as a student. Although Vavra was the director of all three, he employed slightly different crews for each story.

Like Pelisky, Co chytnes v zite was produced by Ceska televize and, possibly as a consequence, has little to add to cinematography that has not been a standard feature of Czech films for the past 30-odd years. This is quite depressing, considering that both Vavra and Hrebejk (who directed Pelisky) are comparatively young directors - Vavra is 34 and Hrebejk 32. This does not seem to indicate that Czech film will be breaking much new ground for the next 30 years either.

Still, Vavra has insisted that the film is neither a serious directorial debut nor a piece of student fun and shrugs off the label "independent," which the film's first part has earned. All that matters to him is that people enjoy the film. Co chytnes v zite looks set for something of a globetrotting tour on the festival circuit, where it will undoubtedly charm foreign audiences, adding to its domestic success.

Andrew J Horton, 30 August 1999

Click here for the first in this pair of articles about Czech comedies.

Pelisky and Co chytnes v zite in the UK

Both films will be on show at the 13th Leeds International Film Festival, which takes place 7 - 23 October 1999. E-mail them for a brochure.

Kinoeye at Karlovy Vary

The following is a list of other films shown at Karlovy Vary which have been covered by Kinoeye.

Pripyat (Pripyat) by Nikloaus Geyrhalter, Austria

Rychle pohyby oci (Rapid Eye Movement) by Radim Spacek, Czech Republic

Totalitarnii roman (Totalitarian Romance) by Viacheslav Sorokin, Russia

Tri muskarca Melite Zganjer (Melita and her Three Men) by Snejzana Tribuson, Croatia

Demony wojny wedlug Goi (Demons of War by Goya) by Wladyslaw Pasikowski, Poland

Blokpost (Checkpoint) by Alexandr Rogozhkin, Russia

Tockovi (Wheels) by Djordje Milosavljevic, Yugoslavia

Gengszterfim (Gangster Film) by Gyorgy Szomjas, Hungary

Nekem lampast adott kezembe as Ur Pesten (The Lord's Lantern in Budapest) by Miklos Jancso, Hungary

Krava (The Cow) by Karel Kachyna, Czech Republic

Okraina (Outskirts) by Peter Lutsik, Russia

Pasti, pasti, pasticky (Traps) by Vera Chytilova, Czech Republic

Kinai vedelem (Chinese Defence) by Gabor Tompa, Hungary




Left and Right

Too Wide a Spectrum

Czech Republic:
No Spectrum at All


Jan Culik:
UK Rejects Central Europeans

Vaclav Pinkava:

Sam Vaknin:
Balkan Intellectuals

Readers' Choice:
The most popular article last week

The Generation Gap in Czech Society


Czech Nationalism Defeating European Dream

Polish Agricultural Reform




Jan Hrebejk's

Roman Vavra's
Co chytnes v zite

Everything there is to know about Central and East European FILM.


A Lovely Tale of Photography

A New Generation of Jewish Writers
(part 3)

Book Shop


Music Shop


Central European
Culture in the UK


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