Jan Němec

Last updated

Jan Němec

Jan Nemec (1967).jpg

Jan Němec in 1967
Born(1936-07-12)12 July 1936
Prague, Czechoslovakia
now Czech Republic
Died 18 March 2016(2016-03-18) (aged 79)
Occupation Director
Years active 1960–2016
Spouse(s) Ester Krumbachová (m. 1963–1968)
Marta Kubišová(m. 1970–1973)
Veronica Baumann(m. 1984–2003)
Iva Ruszelakova(m. 2003–2016)
Children 1

Jan Němec (12 July 1936 – 18 March 2016) was a Czech filmmaker whose most important work dates from the 1960s. Film historian Peter Hames has described him as the "enfant terrible of the Czech New Wave." [1] [2]

Enfant terrible is a French expression, traditionally referring to a child who is terrifyingly candid by saying embarrassing things to parents or others. However, the expression has drawn multiple usage in careers of art, fashion, music, and other creative arts. In these careers, it implies a successful, and often young, "genius" who is very unorthodox, striking, and in some cases, offensive, or rebellious.



Němec's career as a filmmaker started in the late 1950s when he attended FAMU, the most prestigious institution for film training in Czechoslovakia. At that time, Czechoslovakia was a communist state subservient to the USSR, and artistic and public expression was subject to censorship and government review. However, thanks largely to the failure of purely propagandist cinema in the early 1950s and the presence of important and powerful people such as Jan Procházka within the Czechoslovak film industry, the 1960s led to an internationally acknowledged creative surge in Czechoslovak film that became known as the Czech New Wave, in which Němec played a part.

The Academy of Performing Arts in Prague is a university in the centre of Prague, Czech Republic, specialising in the study of music, dance, drama, film, television and multi-media. It is the largest art school in the Czech Republic, with more than 350 educators and researchers, and 1500 students.

Czechoslovakia 1918–1992 country in Central Europe, predecessor of the Czech Republic and Slovakia

Czechoslovakia, or Czecho-Slovakia, was a sovereign state in Central Europe that existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until its peaceful dissolution into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on 1 January 1993.

Artistic freedom can be defined as "the freedom to imagine, create and distribute diverse cultural expressions free of governmental censorship, political interference or the pressures of non-state actors." Generally, artistic freedom describes the extent of independence artists obtain to create art freely. Moreover, artistic freedom concerns "the rights of citizens to access artistic expressions and take part in cultural life - and thus [represents] one of the key issues for democracy." The extent of freedom indispensable to create art freely differs regarding the existence or nonexistence of national instruments established to protect, to promote, to control or to censor artists and their creative expressions. This is why universal, regional and national legal provisions have been installed to guarantee the right to freedom of expression in general and of artistic expression in particular. In 2013, Ms Farida Shaheed, United Nations Special Rapporteur to the Human Rights Council, presented her "Report in the field of cultural rights: The right to freedom of expression and creativity" providing a comprehensive study of the status quo of, and specifically the limitations and challenges to, artistic freedom worldwide. In this study, artistic freedom "was put forward as a basic human right that went beyond the ‘right to create’ or the ‘right to participate in cultural life’." It stresses the range of fundamental freedoms indispensable for artistic expression and creativity, e.g. the freedoms of movement and association. "The State of Artistic Freedom" is an integral report published by arts censorship monitor Freemuse on an annual basis.


For graduation, Němec adapted a short story by Arnošt Lustig based on the author's experience of the Holocaust. Němec would return to Lustig's writing to direct the influential film Diamonds of the Night (1964), also based on the Holocaust. [3] That film follows the fate of two boys who escape from a train taking them to a concentration camp. It is noted for its dramatic subjectivization of the experience of the Holocaust using experimental techniques including flashbacks, simulated hallucinations, and an unusual double ending that leaves the viewer in doubt as to the fate of its protagonists. It was his first major success, and while it passed the censors' reviews, it helped lay the foundation for the political movement that was coming. The film has since been called an aesthetic and technical milestone in the exploration of human experience under extreme conditions.

Arnošt Lustig Czech publicist, politic writer, bookwriter and writer

Arnošt Lustig was a renowned Czech Jewish author of novels, short stories, plays, and screenplays whose works have often involved the Holocaust.

The Holocaust Genocide of the European Jews by Nazi Germany and other groups

The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was a genocide during World War II in which Nazi Germany, aided by local collaborators, systematically murdered some six million European Jews—around two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe—between 1941 and 1945. Jews were targeted for extermination as part of a larger event during the Holocaust era, in which Germany and its collaborators persecuted and murdered other groups, including Slavs, the Roma, the "incurably sick", political and religious dissenters such as communists and Jehovah's Witnesses, and gay men. Taking into account all the victims of Nazi persecution, the death toll rises to over 17 million.

<i>Diamonds of the Night</i> 1964 film by Jan Němec

Diamonds of the Night is a 1964 Czech film about two boys on the run from a train taking them to a concentration camp, based loosely on Arnošt Lustig's autobiographical novel Darkness Has No Shadow. It was director Jan Němec's first full-length feature film.

His best known work is A Report on the Party and the Guests (1966). Its plot revolves around a group of friends on a picnic who are invited to a bizarre banquet by a charismatic sadist, played by Ivan Vyskočil, who eventually bullies most of them into blind conformity and brutality while those who resist are hunted down. The film received a particularly bad reception from the authorities as Vyskočil in the film had a remarkable likeness to Lenin, though according to Peter Hames this was accidental. Moreover, the cast consisted of various dissident Czechoslovak intellectuals of the day, including Josef Škvorecký. The film was viewed as being so subversive to the Communist state that Antonín Novotný, the president, was said to "climb the walls" on viewing it and Němec's arrest for subversion was considered.

<i>A Report on the Party and the Guests</i> 1966 film by Jan Němec

A Report on the Party and the Guests is a 1966 Czechoslovak political satire film directed by Jan Němec. It was entered for the 1968 Cannes Film Festival, but the festival was aborted owing to the events of May 1968 in France. The film was banned from 1966 to 1968 for being perceived as an allegory of totalitarian regimes. After a short release during the Prague Spring it was banned again for the next twenty years. In 1974 director Jan Němec was forced to leave the country.

Sadistic personality disorder is a personality disorder involving sadism which appeared in an appendix of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III-R). The later versions of the DSM do not include it.

Josef Škvorecký Czech-Canadian writer and publisher

Josef Škvorecký, was a Czech-Canadian writer and publisher. He spent half of his life in Canada, publishing and supporting banned Czech literature during the communist era. Škvorecký was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1980. He and his wife were long-time supporters of Czech dissident writers before the fall of communism in that country. Škvorecký's fiction deals with several themes: the horrors of totalitarianism and repression, the expatriate experience, and the miracle of jazz.

However, before the political fallout from this was able to take effect, he managed to have one more feature approved: Martyrs of Love (Mučedníci lásky, 1966). Perhaps in consideration of the previous troubles he had suffered, the film was completely apolitical, but nevertheless its surrealist lyrical style did not endear it to the authorities, and Němec was forced to work outside the government-approved system, producing the film Mother and Son (Mutter und Sohn, 1967), which won an award at the Oberhausen Film Festival.

Oberhausen Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Oberhausen is a city on the river Emscher in the Ruhr Area, Germany, located between Duisburg and Essen. The city hosts the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen and its Gasometer Oberhausen is an anchor point of the European Route of Industrial Heritage.

His next important feature was a documentary, Oratorio for Prague, of the Soviet-led invasion of Prague in 1968 that ended the liberal Prague Spring. It received standing ovations in New York in the fall of 1968. The film was banned, but Němec's footage would eventually be used by countless international news organizations as stock footage of the invasion. Philip Kaufman's film adaptation of The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) used footage from the film; Němec also served as an advisor. [1]

He left Czechoslovakia after 1968, but upon his return he was not allowed to make films. He attempted to leave the country soon after but was not able to do so until 1974. He was given a warning by the government that "... if he came back, they would find some legal excuse to throw him in jail." [4] From 1974 to 1989, he traveled to Germany, Paris, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States. He stayed in the United States for twelve years. [4] Unable to work in traditional cinema, he was a pioneer in using video cameras to record weddings, including documenting the nuptials of the Swedish royal family. [3]

After the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989, he returned to his native country, where he had made several films, including Code Name Ruby (Jmeno kodu: Rubin, 1997) and Late Night Talks with Mother (Nočni hovory s matkou, 2000), which won the Golden Leopard at Locarno.

He had been a professor at his alma mater, FAMU, since 1996.

In 2014, he protested against the president of the Czech Republic Miloš Zeman by returning the medals given to him by the first president of the Czech Republic Václav Havel. [5]

Personal life and death

He married costume designer and screenwriter Ester Krumbachová in 1963; they divorced in 1968. In 1970 he married singer Marta Kubišová; they divorced in 1973. He married his third wife Veronica Baumann, a Czech language teacher, in 1984; they divorced in 2003. He married film editor Iva Ruszelakova shortly after. In May 2003, Němec became a father. [6] Nemec died of an illness on 18 March 2016; he was 79. [7]


Related Research Articles

Cinema of the Czech Republic

Czech cinema is the name for cinematography of Czech Republic, as well as the Czech cinematography while it was a part of other countries.

Czechoslovak New Wave Filmmaking movement

The Czechoslovak New Wave is a term used for the 1960s films of Czech directors Miloš Forman, František Vláčil, Věra Chytilová, Ivan Passer, Pavel Juráček, Jaroslav Papoušek, Jiří Menzel, Jan Němec, Jaromil Jireš, Vojtěch Jasný, Evald Schorm, Elmar Klos and Slovak directors Dušan Hanák, Juraj Herz, Juraj Jakubisko, Štefan Uher, Ján Kadár, Elo Havetta and others. The quality and openness of the films led the genre to be called the Czechoslovak film miracle.

Ján Kadár was a Hungarian-born Slovak film writer and director of Jewish heritage.

Karel Zeman Czech film director, artist and animator

Karel Zeman was a Czech film director, artist, production designer and animator, best known for directing fantasy films combining live-action footage with animation. Because of his creative use of special effects and animation in his films, he has often been called the "Czech Méliès."

Věra Chytilová Czech director, professor and university educator

Věra Chytilová was an avant-garde Czech film director and pioneer of Czech cinema. Banned by the Czechoslovak government in the 1960s, she is best known for her Czech New Wave film, Sedmikrásky (Daisies). Her subsequent films screened at international film festivals, including Vlčí bouda (1987), which screened at the 37th Berlin International Film Festival, A Hoof Here, a Hoof There (1989), which screened at the 16th Moscow International Film Festival, and The Inheritance or Fuckoffguysgoodday (1992), which screened at the 18th Moscow International Film Festival. For her work, she received the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Medal of Merit and the Czech Lion award.

Robert Buchar is an American cinematographer, filmmaker, film director and producer, born in 1951 in Hradec Králové, former Czechoslovakia.

Pavel Juráček was a Czech screenwriter and film director who studied at FAMU. Although not as famous as Miloš Forman or Jiří Menzel, he was an exponent of the Czech New Wave as well. He worked at Prague Barrandov Studios; however after his satirical movie Case for a Rookie Hangman (1970) was shelved, his movie career came to an end.

Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague film school

The Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague or FAMU is a film school in Prague, Czech Republic, founded in 1946 as one of three branches of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. It is the fifth oldest film school in the world. The teaching language on most courses at FAMU is Czech, but FAMU also runs certain courses in English. The school has repeatedly been included on lists of the best film schools in the world by The Hollywood Reporter.

Josef Vojta was a former Czechoslovak football player.

Juraj Herz Czech actor, director and scriptwriter

Juraj Herz was a Slovak film director, actor, and scene designer, associated with the Czechoslovak New Wave movement of the 1960s. He is best known for his 1968 horror/black comedy The Cremator, often cited as one of the best Czechoslovak films of all time, though many of his other films achieved cult status. He directed for both film and television, and in the latter capacity he directed episodes of a French-Czech television series based on George Simenon's Maigret novels.

Karel Plicka Czech photographer and director

Karel Plicka was a Czechoslovak photographer, film director, cinematographer, folklorist, and pedagogue. He is considered a founder of Slovak film education and filmmaking. He helped establish the genre of ethnographic film in Czechoslovakia.

František R. Kraus Czechoslovak writer

František R. Kraus was a Czechoslovak Jewish anti-fascist writer, journalist and editor, member of the resistance movement and a sportsman.

Pavel Bergmann Czech historian

Pavel Bergmann was a Czech historian, philosopher, a signatory of the Charter 77 manifesto, and a founding member of the Civic Forum.

Ester Krumbachová Czech filmmaker

Ester Krumbachová was a Czech screenwriter and costume designer. She is best known for her collaborations with Czech New Wave directors Věra Chytilová and Jan Němec. Němec described her as his "muse".

The Prague film school, also known as the Czech film school or the Prague wave was a group of Yugoslav film directors who rose to prominence in the 1970s after graduating from the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU). Five prominent Yugoslav directors born from 1944 to 1947 attended classes at FAMU: Lordan Zafranović, Srđan Karanović, Goran Marković, Goran Paskaljević, and Rajko Grlić. Emir Kusturica, who was born is 1954, is sometimes also considered a member of the Praška škola. Cinematographers Živko Zalar, Predrag Pega Popović, Vilko Filač, Valentin Perko, and Pavel Grzinčič, also studied at FAMU.

Pearls of the Deep is a 1966 Czechoslovak anthology film directed by Jiří Menzel, Jan Němec, Evald Schorm, Věra Chytilová and Jaromil Jireš. The five segments are all based on short stories by Bohumil Hrabal. The film was released in Czechoslovakia on 7 January 1966.


  1. 1 2 "Jan Nemec – Enfant terrible of the New Wave". CE Review. 14 May 2001. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  2. Zemřel režisér Jan Němec, nebroušený diamant české nové vlny (in Czech)
  3. 1 2 "Kinoeye: An Interview with Czech Film Director Jan Nemec". CE Review. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  4. 1 2 Buchar, Robert (2004). Czech new wave filmmakers in interviews. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. p. 25. ISBN   9780786417209 . Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  5. Levy, Adam (21 August 2003). "Jan Nemec: An enfant terrible at 67". Monroe Luther. The Prague Post s.r.o. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  6. Tizard, Will (20 March 2016). "Czech Director Jan Nemec Dies at 79". Variety. Michelle Sobrino. Penske Media. Retrieved 20 March 2016.