Note: This film guide is part of a collection of film guides on history, politics, and war.


Vojtech Jasny came to prominence as leader of the Czech "New Wave" of cinematographers in 1957. Debut film was "September Nights" a critique of Stalinism. Won award for Best Director at Cannes Film festival in 1969. Soon after film banned in Czechoslovakia and VJ left to live and work in West Germany.


Film "All My Good Countrymen" (also known as "Moravian Chronicle") depicts stages of life in one small Moldavian village from 1945 to early 1968 - from the joy of defeat of the Nazis, through the transformations of the Moldavian countryside as a result of the communist revolution, to the eve of the "Prague Spring" in 1968. The Bloomsbury Foreign Film Guide (1988) describes the film as a "lyrical epic" and rightly concludes that "Its brilliant blend of satire, drama and comedy, dream and reality, makes it one of the finest features to emerge during the short "Prague Spring." (p. 18). One million people saw the film before it was banned after the Warsaw Pact invasion which ended the Prague Spring.

The film is divided into 10 dated parts and an Epilog. A group of 6 friends is divided and set against itself by the impact of the communist revolution. It is dotted with the deaths of the leading characters:

  • 1. the postman Bertin who is a member of the local communist party is shot by an unknown killer by mistake (instead of Party Sec Otenas)
  • 2. the prosperous farmer Zanisek with the largest land holding who is dispossessed and later gored by a bull. Drinks too much and has visions of his wife - a Jew killed by the Germans.
  • 3. the self-inflicted blood-poisoning of the petty thief Josko or "Joe the Lip". A petty thief and town eccentric who "borrows" things, chooses suicide rather than face prison under communism.
  • 4. the farmer Frantisek who holds out against the collectivisation of his farm.


1. the contrast between those who benefit from the new communist order (the party bosses) and those who lose (the small business owners and larger farmers). Josza becomes chairman of the local Cummunist Party branch. Gets a fancy house (with an inside toilet) and a briefcase full of money. Corruption of party bosses by embezzling money. Tailor says "It's like during the Nazi occupation." The largest landowner is dispossessed in order to form the core of a new highly efficient collective farm. What had been a tidy and prosperous farm is slowly turned into a "dung heap" by the incompetence of the collective management which has no personal incentive to work hard. The self-employed town tailor, Franta Lampa, runs a small business and employs a couple of assistants. He is accused by the newparty bosses of being an exploiter and he is forced to hand over his house and business to the state.

2. References to the Catholic Church. The anti-church policies of the communist regime. Resentment of the townspeople when their priest is taken away. Zanisek cannot find help or comfort in confession. Image and sound of church organ. Opponent or collaborator of new regime?

3. Theme of dancing, eating and drinking. Solace only in dancing and drinking.

4. Problem of social misfits "who don't belong to the times to come" (i.e. communism). Zanisek, Joe, the old people. Zanisek has no future (palm reader will not tell him his future). Joe's idiosyncracies tolerated by townspeople but not by communist party. Old people still living in Imperial past but "no one will tell them" it is dead and gone. The haunting images of the faces of the old men and especially the women, a reminder perhaps of the old Czechoslovakia under the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

5. The collective farm as a metaphor for the economic chaos and irrationality of the planned economy of the communist system. Otenas' butterfly collection - symbol of desire by party intellectuals to rationally order world. Not applicable to complex economy or diverse individuals.

6. the intimidation of the farmers by the party to join the state collective. Only holdout is Frantisek. Taken away but no one protests or helps him. Raises question of complicity of ordinary people in communist regime. When party agitators arrive at his farm he complains that they treat individuals like cattle. F returns and agrees to take over running collective farm. Even the "saintly" F cannot make the collective farm work efficiently. Declares that "politics stinks" to which someone replies : "And you've just found out." Debunking of the idea that all that is needed is for "good man" like Frantisek to run the collective farm - good people cannot make a irrational system work - "you can't make a whip out of shit."

7. Otenas - the committed and incorruptable true believer. Organist, intellectual (composer, butterfly collector) becomes Party Sec, but hated by townspeople who throw stones through his window. Defended by Frantisek at town meeting. Leaves town to work in a museum. Later returns to town and talks with old party official. Declares that the "bad weeds" never died only the "good ones" like Frantisek. Otenas visits F's home to find his daughter grown up, teaching piano to new generation. Piano/music symbol of beliefs and attitudes of old order which Communist Party cannot uproot. Otenas' voice-over at end - "We must eat what we have cooked for ourselves."

8. the witty scene at the beginning with the Church choir giving thanks to the Russians and their tanks for liberating their homeland (set in 1944-5) but an ironic reference to the Russian tank invasion of 1968?