In winning the Grand Prix at the Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival (IFFMH) in 1964, Jan Němec’s drama Démanty noci (Diamonds of the Night) became the first Czechoslovak New Wave film to receive an internationally recognised award. The motion picture, based on a short story from an eponymous book by Arnošt Lustig, started the brilliant career of one of the most original Czech filmmakers of the 1960s (Němec had adapted one other Lustig short story, Sousto (Mouthful), as a short film while graduating at Prague film school FAMU). Diamonds of the Night offers an unusual, intensely attitudinal insight into the topic of war. It tells the story of two young Jewish men who escape from a train taking them to their death. The film amounts to a naturalistic study of endangerment, repudiation and uprootedness. The experiences of the desperate refugees in the Sudetenland forest merge with the memories, dreams and visions of one of the men. Thus the anatomy of a tortured human soul is projected into the sphere of existential drama.
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