Lost Gem: Pictures of the Old World- Dušan Hanák

Andrea Zimmerman
Big Tent
Pictures of The Old World (Dušan Hanák, Cze, 1972, 64 mins)

I was stopped in my tracks when I saw this. The film shows a time of transition, and what that means for those people who are seen by this moving on - modernity, progress - as being ‘out of time’, redundant. The idea of progress is a contested one, for it brings with it inevitable erasures. This is why the underbelly of progress is ideological. One day the new world will be old, too. There is a particular quality of attention to the people in the film that drew me to it; searching but without a fixed or fixing gaze. The questions posed (what is the most valuable thing in life?) and the answers received are given the time they need (to explore, to be shy, awkward, and always there is a refusal to be boxed in).

I find that in films older people are all too often seen as wise or fools, whereas here they are endowed with their full humanity. That this is even worthy of note is remarkable. The dreamers of a new world may also dream of the old ones too, because our survival depends on this quality of unforgetting. Here, in this world, for those who have survived, songs are sung and instruments played with such joy, even if, due to old age, the player remains in bed.


Followed by Q&A.