THE JOKE 1969
This is the cinematic adaptation of the seminal novel by Milan Kundera, and I should also point out that Kundera himself co-wrote the screenplay together with the amazing Czech director Jaromil Jireš (Valarie and her Week of Wonders).
Set in Czechoslovakia in the early 60s when the country was under Communist rule, this bittersweet film centers on the story of Jahn, a philandering professor who sends his lover a risqué and “politically incorrect” postcard. The postcard is a sort of joke mocking her serious allegiance to the Communist party. When the postcard is discovered, he is thrown out of the university, put on trial, and given a six year sentence for “hard labor”. Many years later he finds himself in a situation where he can enact his revenge against the person responsible for his imprisonment.
Interestingly, director Jireš chooses to tell this dramatic tale through surreal flashbacks… and its actually all told while Jahn is wandering around a small town in relative boredom. Made near the end of the Czech New Wave (during those few years of freedom in Czechoslovakia before the Russian tanks came in and changed everything), The Joke is acknowledged as one of the movement’s greatest works. The movie would hit the Czech cinemas briefly in 1969, but ended up being immediately banned and it couldn’t be seen again for another 20 years.