Vlastimil Venclík

* 1942  

  • “I think that there’s one important thing that has to be stressed, that me and the whole of my generation are the ‘children of the Fifties’. I can still remember that when we came to school, some of the comrade teachers showed great interest in what our parents said at home. For instance, I never joined the Pioneers, and that’s the first moment when you find that you have to adapt socially. Because you find that you might get into trouble otherwise. For example, during the war one of the key things about this attitude was that the Russians had robbed us in 1945. Back then they told Dad: ‘Don’t you go abotu telling anyone!’ Those two-faced morals were already in effect. They were the liberators, and that halo of theirs, I already knew I wasn’t allowed to speak about it at school. I also remember how our teachers asked us if our parents listened to Free Europe or Voice of America. That’s something when even at the youngest of ages you see there’s a conflict between truth and reality and that if you want to survive, you have to, as the comrades said, be wary and vigilant. So that’s what you have to be so you don’t blab out something by mistake, like what you heard at home or what your parents listened to.”

  • “Military service, that’s a waste of time. It’s such a bizarre thing, I have to share. I served for two years in Pardubice, and my initial assignment was as a dog handler. During boot camp, that was the first two months, and I was a bohemian kind of person. Say, there was an alert, and I said: ‘Well, I’ll finish my lunch first, right?’ So you can imagine they wiped the floor with me. I could tell you lots of bizarre incidents, say, how I got lost during a night-time exercise. What’s important about the dog handler is that my friend wrote on the envelope of a letter he sent me: Private Venclík – the dog handlerandler. And they considered that the divulging of a military secret. I was frightened of the dogs, and I was glad when they re-assigned me. So I didn’t even get in touch with them, it was right at the beginning. They then assigned me to the specialisation of Assistant for Oxygen Equipment and Extinguishers, another bizarre title. And basically what that meant was that I served at an airbase and wore a blue uniform, which soon came to an end – the blue uniforms for the air force. We refilled planes with oxygen in Pardubice. And there was one problem – that we couldn’t grease the taps in the oxygen depot because it would immediately explode. Back then I was weak, sickly, so it was pretty difficult for me to open those taps. One time they cancelled a flying day because of me, because I couldn’t open it at all. So I said I’d saved the state millions. Because when they don’t take off, it already cost a million back then. That’s when the aeroplanes where on the ground, and when they fly up, that has to be several millions.”

  • “Suddenly people understood that if they want to function okay, they have to adapt, or if they want to live in a reasonable way. Because only lunatics or people who somehow need the truth to live or see it as a necessity, like bread, they get their ass kicked, of course. The ‘normal’ people hid and waited. And I think that actually, historically, Czechs have this Švejklike nature, which was in a part so ingeniously depicted by Hašek. That it’s a kind of protective camouflage, which helps us survive. That’s what the film The Uninvited Guest was about for me. The important part wasn’t that he came there in the night. That happens all over the world. But these Czech sly-boots like that married couple in the film, who protest at first and want to kill him, until they realise that they can actually communicate with him, with the occupier. He tells them: ‘The man next door has a sow [in his flat].’ That’s the basis [of the film], that [the uninvited guests] are in every flat. That when Landovský charges in with a suitcase in the night, the husband rushes off to his neighbour, opens the door, and a similarly dressed [guest] appears there, and in the next flat as well. He [the uninvited guest] tells him: ‘They’re everywhere.’ And the couple have to get alongside it somehow, alongside that crushing fact. And they do it by finding out that this [guest] is quite nice, he sleeps in their bed with them. He’s like that, and he says: ‘The man next door has a sow, and I want to get on well with everyone. The times require it, you must understand. I’ll be like your brother and friend, isn’t that enough?’ I’m quoting from the dialogue of the film, which I saw many times. It cost me basically my whole career, so it’s kind of a crucial work for me. I’ve never shot anything better because I could never work freely. And it’s not that I don’t have the material, but there isn’t any interest in it any more.”

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    Praha, 03.07.2018

    délka: 02:11:49
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Memory of the Nation: stories from Praha 2
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To find your own way and feel that you’re not a puppet

Vlastimil Venclík - 90s of the 20th century
Vlastimil Venclík - 90s of the 20th century
zdroj: archiv pamětníka

Vlastimil Venclík, a Czech playwright, screenwriter, director, and actor, was born on 1 September 1942 in Kyje near Prague. After studying at grammar school and the Secondary School of Society and Law, he was accepted to the Film Academy in Prague in 1966. His reaction to the Soviet occupation in August 1968 and the ensuing normalisation was to shoot the student film Nezvaný host (The Uninvited Guest) in April 1969, starring Pavel Landovský. The film was seen as an attack on the Communist regime and was confiscated by State Security for a whole twenty-one years. Its author was subsequently expelled from the Film Academy and earned his living for a number of years at the District National Health Institute in Prague as a sick-leave inspector. At the time he began to break through as a playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. After 1989 he directed some his own scripts and theatre plays. One of his best-known television works is the documentary series Zprávy o stavu společnosti (Reports on the State of Society). After 1989 he co-authored the project by CET 21, which received a license for independent television broadcasting. In 1993 he had to come to terms with the violent death of his son, after which he established the Filip Venclík Foundation. In 2018 he was elected into the Czech Television Council; he lives in Prague 2.