The Sun in a Net (Slnko v sieti) (DVD) (Second Run)

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The Sun in a Net (Slnko v sieti)

Second Run DVD / Štefan Uher / 1962 / Slovakia – Czechoslovakia

Running Time: 90 minutes (1:30:12)

Region Code: Region B / PAL

Certificate: 12

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 (Full frame)

Codec: MPEG-2

Image: Black & White

Video: DVD9

Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0

Language: Slovak

Subtitles: Optional English

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Widely regarded as one of the finest achievements in the history of Slovak and Czechoslovak cinema, Štefan Uher’s groundbreaking criticism of social and political values is often considered to be the work that instigated the great Czechoslovak New Wave film movement of the early 1960’s (which saw early early works from filmmakers such as Jiří Menzel, Miloš Forman, Jaromil Jireš and František Vláčil), and although Uher’s superb film has sadly lain dormant for many years, ‘The Sun in a Net’ now receives its first ever UK DVD presentation, fifty years on from its original release, courtesy of Second Run DVD.

Marking the first of many future collaborations between Uher and the Slovakian novelist, Alfonz Bednár, Bednár’s daring screenplay, adapted from three of his own short stories first published in 1961: “Fajolo’s Contribution” (Fajolov príspevok), “Pontoon Day” (Pontónový deň), and “Golden Gate” (Zlatá brána), ultimately centres on the rocky romance between young student, Oldrich “Fajolo” Fajták (Marián Bielik) and his young girlfriend, Bela Blažejová (Jana Beláková), struggling to maintain their relationship in a sort of social-realist vortex of domestic or familial turbulence, illicit affairs, adultery and political disdain.

One of the first films to take advantage of the relaxation of communist authority in early 1960’s Czechoslovakia, ‘The Sun in a Net’ bravely touches upon social and political topics and themes that, given the authoritarian Communist censorship laws of the time, would previously have been (and to some extent still were) considered offensive and really unacceptable, most significantly in its emancipated flow, risque dialogue and sexual acceptance or open-mindedness.

Where the film differs significantly from the majority of films made during the Czech New Wave is in the fact that it is uses Slovak dialogue, Slovakian born Uher’s native language, whereas the vast majority of Czech New Wave films were filmed in Czech-language, and usually on location in Czechoslovakia (mainly Prague where FAMU, the Film, Television and Performing Arts Academy, one of the world’s oldest film schools, is located), not on location in Slovakia (Bratislava) as is the case here.

Thought to have been inspired by the Central European solar eclipse of 1961, combined with ancient solar myths, ‘The Sun in a Net’ is cleverly fused throughout with visual poetry, ambiguous political symbolism and analogy to highlight the aversion towards life under a strict Communist regime, such as Bela’s mother’s blindness, the arid river bank, and most potently the stark, contrasting images of light and darkness, literally overshadowed by the solar eclipse of the sun (however it is interesting to construct your own opinions of some of the film’s more subtle uses of symbolism).

Stanislav Szomolányi’s excellent cinematography utilises some superb and highly inventive camera techniques, notably in its clever use of focus, zoom and framing, and really enhance both the artistic flair and the experimental ‘New Wave’ tone of the piece.

Bedřich Voděrka must also be commended for his accomplished editing which displays stylistic techniques familiar to those now commonly associated with French New Wave filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut.

Incorporating real-life, ad-lib background conversations, Ilja Zeljenka’s soundtrack is also very unique and experimental in its construction and again effectively accentuates the radical ‘New Wave’ style and sound.

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Presented in the original full frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1, Second Run’s transfer, taken from a new High Definition restoration of the film is excellent.

The black and white image is beautifully reproduced, with strong levels of crisp clarity, deep contrast, fine detail and fluidity.

The image appears very clean, defined and free from any speckling and significant debris or image artefacts.

All in all, a top quality release!

The original restored Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack is equally as strong as the visuals, presenting clean dialogue, crisp, resonant effects and a clean presentation of Zeljenka’s experimental ‘electronic phase’ soundtrack.

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Special Features:

An appreciation – new and exclusive interview with filmmaker Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio, Katalin Varga) (12 minutes).

20-page booklet featuring a new essay by author and film programmer Peter Hames.

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Overall:

A superb, inventive and highly rewarding work that really deserves to be seen. Fifty years on from its original release, Štefan Uher’s faithful portrait of ordinary society still maintains a vibrancy and an originality that still feels unique and fresh to this day! Another must have release from Second Run DVD!

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Release Date: 12 August, 2013

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