Celebration in the Botanical Garden

Mária (Hana Slivková), the innkeeper in the town of Babindol in the Little Carpathians, has eight daughters by the same father, Pišta, who lives in a hermit’s hut outside the vineyards. Their lives are disturbed by the arrival of Pierre (Slavoj Urban), a wanderer from France, who brings new life to the village. Pierre (a counterpart of Pierrot from the Commedia dell’Arte) becomes a rival of the botanist Gašpar (whose counterpart is Casper, the jester from puppet theatre). Pierre achieves a miracle during the celebration of the vintage when local legends about a spring of red wine come to fruition. The film’s episodic structure and liberated style express a freewheeling sense of creativity, joy, and freedom. Director Havetta admits to the influence of René Clair’sAn Italian Straw Hat (Un chapeau de paille d’Italie) and of French cinema of the “golden era,” and the film opens with an extract from the Lumière brothers. Like Jakubisko, Havetta draws on folk traditions but there are also visual links to le Douanier Rousseau, Monet, and Renoir. With its elephant, tightrope walkers, and ambling musicians, the whole film evokes the spirit of carnival.