“Forman’s first movie is characterized by ease and lightness. Cultivation of the picture and economy of expression are noticeable for example in a key sequence at the Saturday dance, where a few of the story episodes intertwine with pseudo-documentary style shots completing the atmosphere of “entertainment” and typology of the characters.”
Peter is a 16 year old trainee at a supermarket, who has to look out for shoplifters when he would rather lie by the pool and look out for girls. Peter starts having problems at work when he doesn’t stop a suspicious looking customer. At home, his pedantic father constantly lectures him, and his girlfriend starts paying a lot of attention to another male friend.
The film “Black Peter” captures the essence of an ordinary summer in a small Czech town in the early sixties. This is accomplished with the help of non-actors and Jan Nemecek’s poetic camera. With this film, Forman also expresses the feelings of arising rebellions among the youth in the eastern bloc just a few years before the beginning of The Prague Spring.
About the movie
The film “Black Peter” presents a sequence of seemingly insignificant events in the life of a 16 year old supermarket trainee named Peter. When Peter begins his summer job as a shop assistant, he learns that his main duty is to look out for shoplifters. He would love to laze around all afternoon by the pool, talk to his friends, and flirt with girls, however he is stuck in the supermarket. At the shop, Peter has to deal with his boss’s management. At home, he has to deal with his father’s nagging. Peter’s father is played by the brilliant non-actor Josef Vostrcil.
The actor Vladimir Pucholt stands out as Cenda, a constantly boasting trainee bricklayer trainee whose loud “Hallooooo” quickly became a familiar catchphrase in Czechoslovakia and still remains popular.
Although the film is based on a novel by Forman’s close friend Jaroslav Papousek the director conforms to the temperament of both actors and non-actors so sensitively that their dialogue seems to be completely authentic - almost like recording of real conversations. For example, the load of empty phrases Peter’s father bombards his apathetic son with at the end of the movie is a brilliant illustration of mutual generation misunderstanding.
This masterpiece of the emerging Czechoslovakian new wave brought something to the screen something that Czechoslovakian filmgoers weren’t used to – an authentic message about the lives of young people and about generation gaps. The subtext of this message points out the decadency of social relations of that time.
- The movie won first prize at the Locarno film festival where it beat some of the greatest directors of its time like Jean-Luc Godard’s “Contempt” and Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Red Desert”.
- “Black Peter” had a very low budget. This is allegedly why Forman cast non-actors in the title roles. Forman’s choice of non-actors began to define his style. The exception of this is the casting of Vladimir Pucholt who was then in his fourth year of Prague Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (DAMU).
Milos Forman about the movie
- “I’d been waiting for a chance to work with Vladimir Pucholt. I’d found him when we were casting “Grandpa Automobile”. He was very young but had made an indelible impression during his audition and I never forgot him. He was just a little too old for the protagonist in ”Black Peter”, so I cast him as the hero’s bricklayer buddy. I made three films with Pucholt, one of the most talented actors I have ever worked with.”
- “I couldn’t find a father for our trainee grocer for a long time. Ivan Passer was working on the project with Papousek and me, and one evening he went to check out a bandleader for “If Only They Ain’t Had Them Band”. Somehow he got the rehearsal halls mixed up and saw the wrong band. He came back very excited. “You gotta see this guy, Milos. He is a real volcano of humanity.” Ivan was right. I cast the sixty-year-old bandleader in my documentary “If Only They Ain’t Had Them Band” the very next evening. I asked Vostrcil If he‘d read for the father in “Black Peter”, but he flatly refused me. There were no brass bands in that movie, and he wasn’t interested in being some kind of show-off. He had too much going on in his life as it was. I kept talking. In the end, I struck a deal with him. He’d read for the father and if he got cast in the role, I’d find a way to incorporate a brass band into the script.”
- “Vostrcil’s wife in “Black Peter” was played by Mrs. Matuskova (Bozena Matuskova, editor’s note), whom we found while scouting a location. We’d come to see if her house would make a good home for our trainee grocer. She needed the money badly and she wasn’t taking any chances, so she had baked a whole tray of “buchty”, which are traditional Czech pastries with sweet fillings. The house was perfect for us and the buchty delicious. And as I watched this alert, stout gray-haired mama work her crafty magic on us, I had a brainstorm.
“Mrs. Matuskova, how about playing the mother in our movie?”
The idea gave her a big laugh. “Me? What do you take me for, some kind of movie star?”
“Aw, come on.”
“You would suit us a lot. And we would pay you well.”
“And what should I do?
“You will just stay here and bake buchty.”
“Ok, I can manage that.”
All morning, while we were setting up, Mrs. Matuskova forced her buchty on people. They were delicious, but also greasy and filling. Every time someone declined her buchty she thought she had failed as an actress. I don’t think that she even noticed when her acting career started.
“Mrs. Matuskova,” I asked her, “can you stand over here and just watch how they argue?” And I’d put her into the shot.
“That was wonderful! And now I want you to tell them, what you think about what the kid’s been saying. You don’t like it, do you? He is pretty cheeky, isn’t he? Ok, action!”
Mrs. Matuskova took a deep breath and gave the two actors a piece of her mind. She was absolutely true, fresh and spontaneous. Her performance in the film was as perfect as her buchty.”
- “I worked with all my non-actors in a similar way, never showing them the script. I had the screenplay memorized word for word and I’d start by acting out the scene for them, explaining what I was looking for. I made sure they understood what the scene was about and their character’s attitudes. Then we would go right ahead and shoot the scene. My non-actors would always remember a few lines of the written dialogue that I’d used and they would make up the rest. When everything went well, the performers were merely themselves and the words that came out of them were right on the money.”
- “The most difficult scene in “Black Peter” came towards the end of the shoot, and it was a production nightmare. We needed a long scene at a dance, but didn’t have the money to hire extras. It was summer, so we decided to rent an ice rink and a band in Kolin, throw a free dance on a Saturday night, write “for free” on the door and shoot the scene with people who’d show up. In four hours – from eight to midnight – we would have to get seven minutes of screen time on film. There were going to be no second chances.”
Czechoslovakia (today’s Czech Republic)
- Charles Square
- Peter meets his friend Tonda and they talk about his date.
- Kmoch’s Island
- Peter’s father conducts Kmoch’s Brass band concert.
- Prague Street, Zlata Street and Prikra Street
- Peter chases after an alleged thief from the supermarket.
- Building of Former Hotel Savoy in Rubesova Street
- Peter meets his friend in a café.
- Ice Rink in Brankovicka Street
- A dance party
- Brankovicka Street
- A shot of a ferry and its surroundings.
- The River Old Labe
- Boys jumping in the water from a high pier and nearly capsize a boat of girls.
- Locker Rooms at a Swimming Pool at Starokolinska Street
- After he changes into his swimming trunks, Peter runs out of the locker rooms.
- Zahradni Street
- Peter’s girlfriend Pavla’s house.
- Podskalske Riverbank
- Peter goes on a date with Pavla.
|Locarno International Film Festival||Locarno|
|Golden Sail||Best Feature Film|
Best Foreign Director|
|Barrandov Film Studios presents|
|Story and Screenplay by||Jaroslav Papousek, Milos Forman|
|Apprentice Peter||Ladislav Jakim|
|Pavla Vrbova||Pavla Martinkova|
|Peter's father||Jan Vostrcil|
|Mason's apprentice Cenda||Vladimir Pucholt|
|Peter's friend Lada||Pavel Sedlacek|
|Cenda's friend Zdenek||Zdenek Kulhanek|
|Shop manager||Frantisek Kosina|
|Mason master||Josef Koza|
|Petr's mother||Bozena Matuskova|
|Franta Mara||Jaroslav Bendl|
|Pavla's friend||Majka Gillarova|
|Lada's friend||Frantisek Prazak|
|Music by||Jiri Slitr|
|Music Played by||Ferdinand Havlik´s Orchestra and Nonet ZK Tatra Kolin|
|Sung by||Pavel Sedlacek, Marketa Petrankova, Eva Ulihrachova|
|Set Designer||Karel Cerny|
|Assistant Designer||Milos Cervinka|
|Set Decorator||Vladimír Mácha|
|Make up||Frantisek Novotny|
|Sound Effects||Bohumir Brunclik|
|2nd Camera Operator||Karel Hejsek|
|Camera Assistant||Vratislav Damborsky|
|Assistant Editor||Anna Mejtska|
|Still Photographer||Jaromir Komarek|
|Assistant Production Manager||Antonin Kubovy, Jaroslav Vlk, Jiri Ulrich|
|First Assistant Director||Ivan Passer|
|Film Editor||Miloslav Hajek|
|Production Manager||Rudolf Hajek|
|Director of Photography||Jan Nemecek|
|Directed by||Milos Forman|
|Production Unit||Jiri Sebor, Vladimir Bor|
|Processed at the Barrandov Film Laboratories, Prague|
|© 1963 Barrandov Film Studios|