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Review Blog

A Report on the Party and Guests

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on August 5, 2015 at 9:00 PM


Jan Němec




IDEA:  A group of friends having a picnic are randomly accosted by a party of men in the woods, and soon after are invited to a birthday banquet for a seemingly benevolent host.

BLURB:  It’s easy to see why Jan Němec’s A Report on the Party and Guests so aggrieved the Communist Czechoslovak government: though not as blissfully incendiary as some of his compatriots’ works, it is all the same a withering denunciation of the political system, its dry, straightforward presentation making its critique perhaps even more potent. With little more than a pack of pliable petite bourgeoisie protagonists, some officious-looking men, and a wooded area, Němec sets up a droll fable in which picnickers find themselves willfully subjugated in a succession of restrictive power structures that take the forms of games and highly regulated “celebrations.” Shorn of elaborate formal strategies or narrative detours, its allegory registers on a basic, intuitive level, and its tone, suggesting menace mostly through banality, mirrors the insidiousness of the Party it condemns, easily piercing the phony façade that holds up oppression and conformity. The setup is also broad enough that its application is practically unlimited – whether it’s communism or just human folly run amok, A Report on the Party and Guests limpidly sees how evil hides in plain sight.

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