Horící ker (Burning Bush) (2013)





Director:     Agnieszka Holland.

Starring:     Tatiana Pauhofová (Dagmar Buresová), Jaroslava Pokorná (Libuse Palachová), Petr Stach (Jirí Palach), Vojtech Kotek (Ondrej Trávnícek), Patrik Dergel (Pavel Janda), Martin Huba (Vilém Nový), Igor Bares (mjr. Docekal), Adrian Jastraban (Vladimír Charouz), Jan Budar (Radim Bures (3 episodes, 2013), Ivan Trojan (mjr. Jires), Denny Ratajský (por. Bocek), Jenovéfa Boková (Vladka Charouzová), David Novotný (JUDr. Sýkora), Emma Smetana (Hana Cízková), Tatjana Medvecká (MUDr. Ziková), Ivana Uhlírová (JUDr Reznícková), Stanislav Zindulka (JUDr. Sládecek), Michaela Procházková (Zuzanka Buresová), Tereza Korejsová (Lucinka Buresová), Alois Svehlík (nácelník Horyna), Miroslav Krobot (Pruvodcí Jiricka), Ondrej Malý (JUDr. Knapp).

Jan Palach protests the Soviet Union crushing of the Prague Uprising of 1968 by burning himself to death in 1969


Spoiler Warning:

Part I.

"On August 21, 1968, the armies of the Warsaw Pact, led by the USSR, invaded and occupied Czechoslovakia.   They crushed the democratization process that had begun that spring." 

Prague, January 16, 1969, five months after the occupation.  A young man comes walking onto the main plaza with two small buckets.  He puts his brief case down, then his scarf and his jacket.  The fellow now douses the buckets onto his head.  He now lights a match and sets himself on fire.  He starts screaming from the pain of the burning.  He starts running through the plaza, scaring the pedestrians. Nobody knows what to do.  Finally, a man takes his overcoat off and throws it onto the burning man.  It's a struggle, but the man puts out the flames. 

An ambulance arrives and they pick up the burned man.   The man says something about a briefcase.  A young man is told that the man left his briefcase by the fountain.  The man and the young man rush over to the fountain to get to the briefcase.  The burned man tells the ambulance people to tell the people that it wasn't a suicide.  The young man reads part of the final letter. 

A detective arrives known as Comrade Major.  A policeman says there's a briefcase.  The policeman gives Major the final letter of the student, Jan Palach.  Major now gets in a car, saying he's going to the office.

The young man who read the final letter runs to tell his colleagues. 

Lawyer Dagmar Buresová comes out of the courtroom having won a case.  She is very happy.  She can't celebrate because she has to pick up her two girls from kindergarten.  The young man who read the final letter rushes over and says:  "A student just set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square."  It was a protest against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia.  The fellow left a letter saying there is a whole group of them and if they don't meet their demands, more students will burn themselves. 

Comrade Major tells Comrade Colonel that the young man left a letter.  He reads from the letter:  "A group of us has decided to burn ourselves in support of our cause."  The group's demands are:  an immediate end to censorship and banning of the collaborationist newspaper Zpravy.  They also want the Czechs to go out on a general strike.  If their demands are not met within five days, by January 21, 1969, other human torches will be lit.  Comrade Colonel wants Comrade Major to find out who are these students and who talked them into this scheme.  He adds that if the Czech government can't handle this situation, the Soviets will dismiss their government and take over. 

Some of Jan Palach's fellow students notice that Jan is missing.  They wonder if the torch may have been Jan.  They start searching through his stuff to see if they can get any clues as to what Jan has been up to.  They find Jan's journal.  They find a key reference.  In Milan, Italy a group of students decided to burn themselves in support of their cause.  Jan said he has the honor of being selected as the first human torch. 

A student interested in being a lawyer often helps Dagmar on her cases.  She is a member of a student group who are politically active, and now the group is wondering where did Vladka go?   A student on the telephone tells the group that the medical faculty is going on strike with them.  A male student comes in and tells Ondrej that the human torch was Jan Palach, who studies history.  Ondrej remembers now that two weeks ago Palach came to him.  Palach was pretty shy.  Palach wanted the students to take over the radio and broadcast a strike appeal.  Ondrej adds:  "I sent him away."

Comrade Major comes to see Palach's physician, a woman named Dr. Zikova.  Major wants to see Palach, but the doctor says no because it might kill her patient.  Palach has 80% percent of his body covered with burns.  Major explains that there will be more human torches if he doesn't get a chance to speak with Palach and find out the names of the other prospective human torches.  The doctor stands firm saying that if Major does talk to Palach, it will kill him and Major will never get any information out of him. 

Jan Palach has a brother who is married and the couple have a young baby.  A messenger tells Mr. Palach to please go to the post office at 8 p.m. for an urgent telephone call from Prague. 

Palach is there in time to receive the telephone call.  A woman tells him that his brother Jan had a serious accident and is in the hospital burn ward.  Palach rushes over to the train station, but it is too early to catch a train now.  The radio is on and the news is broadcast about the man who lit himself on fire.  Palach wonders if this person might be his brother Jan. 

Two members of the student political group tell an advisor, Comrade Minister, that the statement movement leaders will meet at Albertov at midnight.  They want to make a joint announcement.  The advisor warns them to be reasonable.  The students say they want to publish Jan Palach's final letter and they want to know if the minister will support them or not. The minister says he will do everything he can for them. 

Dagmar's doctor husband arrives late at night from the hospital.  She asks him if he thinks the young man will survive.  The husband says they told him that it would probably be better for the young man if he does not survive.

Jan's brother Jeri Palach arrives by taxi at the hospital.  He rushes in to see the doctor.  She tells him that his brother is sleeping now and he must continue sleeping.  Jan's brother asks where is their mother?  The doctor is shocked that the brother had not spoken to his mother yet.  She lives in Vsetaty, close to Melnik [and northeast of Prague].  The doctor says she will have an ambulance driver drive him to Vsetaty to tell his mother what happened. 

Mother Palach gets up for the day.  She has breakfast and then starts walking to the train station.  Her son arrives, but his mother is not at home.  So the two men drive over to the train station.  The son goes into the station, but a neighbor tells him that his mother just did get on the train.  So, the two men now drive to the next station to catch up with mother Palach.  On the train, mother Palach sees a photograph of her son on the front page of the newspaper.  She starts reading the story.  She becomes hysterical and grabs the newspaper from the owner's possession.  Reaching the station, the son is there as the conductor helps his mother off the train.  Mother and son hug each other as they both cry.   

Comrade Major visits the roommates of Jan Palach.  He asks the two fellows how was Jan acting during the morning of the immolation.  They say that everything was just normal.  Another detective asks about a girlfriend and the guys give the name of Hana from Performing Arts. 

Ondrej comes into the office.  Vladka is still missing. 

Comrade Major Jires goes to talk with Hana.  She says she knows Palach but he is not her boyfriend.  She asks how is Jan.  The Major says he's still alive.

Mother and son now arrive at the hospital.  They have only two minutes to talk to Jan.  Mother doesn't even last for two minutes.  She goes to the doctor to ask her to save her son's life.  She breaks down crying.  Mother becomes hysterical again.  The hospital is going to watch her to see that she's okay. 

In Prague a Russian jeep runs into a man on a bicycle. The Czechs start to get really angry at the Russian soldiers in the jeep.  One of the soldiers stands up in the jeep and fires a bullet into the air to make the Czechs move away from them. 

Dagmar attends a meeting of the law firm where she works. She doesn't like it when one of her colleagues says that Jan Palach is a psychopath.  She comments that the colleague really judged the young man pretty quickly.  Her boss, Vladimir, is the father of Vladka.  He tells Dagmar that Vladka is still missing.  Dagmar tells him that she dropped Vladka right in front of their apartment building. Dagmar goes with her boss to talk to some of the political students.  The students, however, are also wondering where is Vladka?

They go to the hospital to check if Vladka is there.  No, she's not there. 

There is a report of a girl burning herself.  Comrade Major goes to investigate it.  It turns out that the water heater burst in an apartment burning a girl.

Dagmar and Vladimir go back to their law offices.  And now they find Vladka in her father's office.  He hugs her hard, but then scolds her for just disappearing as she did.  She says she was with Vasek.  She was afraid that he hurt himself because of the Russians.  Dad is still very upset.  Vladka apologizes to him.

Jan calls out for Hana.  Comrade Major picks Hanna up to take her to the hospital.  He wants her to ask Jan for the names of the other torches.  When she comes out of Jan's room, Hana is an emotional mess.  She starts crying.  She tells the Major that Jan was saying something, but she couldn't understand any of it. 

Comrade Colonel reads the riot act to Major and his assistant.  He complains that basically the two men made no progress at all and the student deadline for their demands is fast approaching.  Soviet troops are being given live ammunition.  The colonel now says that he wants Hana to read a statement on television from Jan Palach.  In it Palach was supposed to say that no one else should do what he did. 

The statement is read by Hana on live TV.  A man also makes a plea for no one else to burn themselves.  After her performance, the Major tells her that if a different story gets out because of her, she will very much regret it. 

Now virtually all the groups that were going to strike now say they will not strike. 

The doctor now informs the mother that her son Jan has died.  This time mother doesn't cry. 

A telephone call comes in for Ondrej.  When he hangs up, he has to tell his colleagues that Jan Palach is dead. 

Back home, the neighbors have a candle light remembrance for Jan Palach.  It's a huge turn-out for Jan. 

A man makes a death mask of Jan Palach.  The political students now take down a bust of Lenin and put Jan Palach's death mask in its place. 

A huge demonstration for Jan Palach's burial occurs in Prague.  Dagmar and her husband are there.  The Major watches the procession.

February 21, 1969, four weeks after Jan Palach's death. Jan's brother reads something disturbing in the newspapers, and so does Dagmar.  A bureaucrat named Vilem Novy said:  "The burning of Jan Palach was an act of right-wing extremists in cooperation with the student movement led by Ondrej Travnicek."  The remark was made at a pre-election meeting in Ceska Lipa.  He also said:  "Jan Palach wanted to pour a special liquid over himself, creating so-called 'cold fire', but someone replaced the liquid with gasoline, which caused him to burn."

The Palach family and Ondrej comes to see Dagmar.   They want to sue Novy for his reckless libel and defamation of Jan Palach and they want Dagmar as their lawyer.  Dagmar is very hesitant, so Ondrej criticizes her.  Dagmar takes Ondrej outside in the hall to give Ondrej a piece of her mind.  She says that Ondrej is pushing these people into more trouble that they can even imagine.  And the mother is an old woman now and Dagmar doesn't think the mother can take the pressure that they will put on her and Jiri.  The Palach family now comes out and tells Dagmar that they are leaving. The family and Ondrej now all leave together.  Dagmar is upset at what happened.

At home, at the dinner table, Dagmar is a bit too harsh with her two girls.  Her husband tells her a little later that she was too hard on the children.  Dagmar goes back to tell the girls that she's sorry. 

Comrade Major tells a lawyer that he personally thinks that Jan Palach was working alone.  The existence of a group has not been proven.  The lawyer suggests that the Major has forgotten who he works for, and the lawyer is not happy about it.  He asks him: "Why are you wasting time on useless complaints?" 



Part II. 

Prague, February 25, 1969, five weeks after Jan Palach's death.  A young boy comes into an apartment building.  He goes to the restroom.  There he leaves a letter for the people of Czechoslovakia.  He rubs a flammable gel over his body.  Then he pours a flammable liquid over his head.  Then he drinks some poison.  He starts to go toward the door.  He lights himself on fire when he is still in the apartment building. 

A fellow gives Ondrej a letter.  He says it's from Jan Zajic.  He then turns and walks away.  It's another human torch letter.

Jan Zajic went to the technical school in Sumperk.  People say he is a quiet, decent boy, who never causes any trouble.  The two detectives on the case believe that Zajic probably did not even know Palach.  Comrade Colonel says they got lucky this time.  If Zajic had made it onto the street, they would have had another Palach on their hands.  And they must deny any connection between Palach and Zajic.

Dagmar and her husband go out to a night club.  While listening to a singer, Dagmar says she has decided to represent the Palach family.  Her husband gets upset and they start arguing.  He gets so mad that he leaves the table to go outside.  Then Dagmar decides to leave. 

The next day Dagmar tells her husband that, if he doesn't want her to take the case, then she won't.  He won't stop her, so she is definitely going to take the case. 

Ondrej wants to publish the letter written by Zajic, but orders from above say they can't.  Ondrej still wants to publish it anyway.  He asks his male assistant to get him the letter.  The assistant looks, but can't find it anywhere.  This creates quite a heated argument between the two fellows.  Ondrej gets way overwrought and starts messing up the papers on the desk.  The other fellow tries to calm him down and they get into pushing each other around.  Vladka comes in and asks what the hell is going on?  Ondrej says that his assistant lost the Zajic letter.  Vladka says:  "Our mimeograph broke down, so I took it to my dad's office to make copies."  The two men walk away from each other.  A little later, Vladka says:  "Sorry."

Dagmar tells her assistant Pavel to get her all the newspapers from February 21, because she needs to know everything she can about Novy's little speech about Jan Palach. Her boss Vladimir asks Dagmar if Pavel is in love with her?  She asks Vladimir if he is jealous.  He just says:  "Oh, please."

Pavel finds the newspaper, and he also finds an article by Novy in a journal.  During WWII, Novy went with Jan Masaryk to Britain.  He became an editor at the BBC.  Dagmar and Pavel now reach the town of Ceska Lipa.  They talk to a waiter at the meeting where Novy gave the little speech.  The waiter says Novy and his little crowd were scared.  "People were waiting for them in the street."

Dagmar and Pavel go to eat at a restaurant.  Pavel goes to the restroom and when he gets back he sees Dagmar laughing with another man at the table.  Pavel seems a bit jealous.  She introduces Comrade Hazura to Pavel.  Hazura was at the meeting with Novy.  The man tells the two that Novy had his remarks all prepared, including materials for the minister.  Novy said that the kid Palach was manipulated. 

Dagmar arrives home when it's already dark.  Comrade Major jumps out of his car to get to talk to her.  He tells her that Zajic's letter has been mimeographed and spread throughout Prague.  All mimeograph machines are registered and they found out that it was printed from her office.  He tells her to be more careful.  He adds:  "You are going to have enough trouble as it is."

The judge for the libel case will be a woman.  She had to take it because no one else would take the case. 

Dagmar and Vladimir show up in the judge's office.  Then Novy's lawyer shows up.  The defense lawyer proposes that the two similar cases, Palach and Ondrej Travnicek, should both be dismissed.  Vladimir squashes that idea.  The defense lawyer says that currently Novy is out of the country.  Vladimir says just yesterday Novy was at a meeting of the Communist Central Committee.  The rest of the meeting goes well for Vladimir and Dagmar, and Dagmar barely said anything in the office. 

Leaving the judge's office, Vladimir tells Dagmar that she's going to need some witnesses.  Meanwhile, Pavel tries to track down a report by Mr. Jicinsky about the Novy meeting. 

Dagmar speaks to a journalist named Pavlovsky that was at the Novy meeting.   She asks him if he will be a witness.  He says:  "Novy is a bastard.  I'll be glad to help you." 

Vladimir is still worried about his daughter Vladka getting herself thrown out of the university because of her political activities.  The two of them have a little argument. 

The old man of the law firm gives Dagmar a file of the prison record of Novy.  She thanks him.  Later, she tells Pavel that they arrested Novy in 1949.  He served five years. Furthermore, he was almost hanged for practically nothing.  Since Novy was in Britain during WW2, it was easy for the communists to call Novy a western agent.  Novy got out of trouble by cooperating with the KGB.  She says, if need be, she might use this file against Novy. 

Comrade Major and his assistant Bocek go to talk to Jan's mother.  They have brought her Jan's belongings.  They have the briefcase, the scarf, men's leather gloves, a well-worn beret and a warn-out toothbrush.  Bocek goes into the mother's bedroom to get her pills.  When he's in there he picks up a letter, but he doesn't tell Comrade Major about it.

Dagmar complains to the judge that they have been delivering the summons to Novy for two months now with no results.   The judge says she sent the summons to Novy three times already. Then Dagmar says she's going to file a complaint against the judge.  She leaves the office.  The judge chases after her and gives her Novy's summons letter, which includes Novy's address. 

And now, Dagmar takes the letter personally to Novy and delivers it into his hands.  She says he's being sued by the Palach family for libel and defamation of character.  He signs for the letter. 

The manager follows Jan's mother into the cemetery.  He tells her that her son was brave.  He also complains that many people seek out Jan's grave.  He says:  "You wouldn't believe the things we find here sometimes."

Somebody starts harassing Jan's mother with very late phone calls.  During the days Jan's mother works at a kiosk.  One day a man buys some things but leaves a magazine behind.  Mother waves the magazine around and calls out to the man.  Suddenly, many photos of Jan 's burned body fall out of the magazine.  She is very distraught when she sees the photos.  A man picks them up for her, but she won't take them from him.

August 21, 1969, first anniversary of the Invasion of Czechoslovakia.  Seven months after the death of Jan Palach.  The Department of the Interior has taken special precautions due to the first anniversary of the arrival of the Warsaw Pact troops. 

Over the police radio comes a call:  "There are barricades, people are throwing stones. I request backup."

Dagmar yells at the judge saying this is the fourth time she has postponed the case.  The last time Novy was in Cuba and now he's in Iran. 

Dagmar hears the rioting in the streets of Prague.  She goes downstairs and out into the streets.  A policeman pushes Dagmar down onto the street.  Pavel is there too and he picks up Dagmar and gets her into the building she came out of.  People bloodied in the streets by the police pour into the hospital. 

The police go through the offices of the student political group  to find anything useful.  Ondrej Travnicek arrives and tries to stop the police from taking their files.  Novy's lawyer hands Ondrej a letter, saying that the student movement has been banned.

Vladka gets herself arrested on the streets of Prague.  Bocek calls Comrade Major the he might be interested in a person under police custody.

Vladimir is called in by the police to discuss his daughter's arrest.  He says Vladka was throwing rocks at comrades.  One got 38 stitches in his face.  The maximum penalty for assaulting a public servant has been recently increased and a student can be suspended without further investigation.  Vladimir will do anything he can to gets his daughter out of jail.

Vladka is released from the jail.  She won't sign the release form, so her father signs for her.

At work, Dagmar is very happy.  They finally have set a date for the trial of Novy.  Dagmar calls Jan's mother, but mom won't pick up the phone.

The police are watching Dagmar's house every day and night now.  And now the police are going to move against Radim, Dagmar's husband.  The police come to the hospital to talk to nurse Lukesova about the doctor. 

Comrade Major is going on vacation with his family.  He is stopped at a check point, then his car conks out and he has to push the car to get it started again. 

The police are still watching Dagmar's home.


Part III. 

Prague, summer, 1969, eight months after the death of Jan Palach. 

The politicians put pressure on the judge in the Novy case.  They want as little publicity as possible for the case.  So, she better think of someway of damping down the trial.  A politician tells her:  "There's a shortage of judges in North Moravia, if you know what I mean."  She says: "I do."

Dagmar goes back to journalist Pavlovsky, who told her that he would testify for her.  Now he says he thought there would be no trial.  And, no, he didn't get any summons.  Dagmar tells him the trial is tomorrow.  Pavlovsky says he will come. 

Jan's mother is back in an asylum.  All she can thinks about is Jan.  She's upset that he wrote four letters to say good-bye to people, but there was no letter for her.  Dagmar tells Jiri Palach that they can delay the trial if necessary.  Jiri tells Dagmar, if they postpone the trail, it won't make any difference.  "We have lost everything, do you understand?" 

And now Dagmar's husband is forced to attend a hearing on his bad behavior as a doctor.  A woman tells the doctors and hospital officials that the doctor said to her about her children that "he is not keen on treating the kids of collaborationist pigs."  He is so mad the he attempts the leave the room, but an official tells him to sit down.  Now they bring in a nurse and she testifies that she was there when the Comrade Doctor offended Comrade Brazdova. 

Vladimir goes into Dagmar's office and takes from her drawer the prison record for Novy.  As he leaves the office, Pavel sees him.  He asks  if Vladimir was in Dagmar's office, but he says no. 

Dagmar is mad that her husband may get fired from his position.  She now regrets taking the Novy case.  Radim decides to go down and complain to the police in their car in front of their house.  He starts talking to the police.  They say nothing to him.  Dagmar pulls Radim away from the car and takes him back to their house. 

It's the day of the big trial.  The judge says that for technical reasons, the hearing has been moved.  The new courtroom is not a courtroom at all but a small office.  The judge won't let the journalists into the "court room".  The journalists leave. 

The defense attorney says that Novy's words were deliberately taken out of context and misrepresented.  He also says that the plaintiffs have an anti-Soviet and anti-government position that they want to push forward.

Dagmar smashes the veracity of Novy's using certain sources.   Novy has to say that the documents he used for his statements were just anonymously put on his desk one day and he knows nothing about the authorship.  Dagmar says that it's strange that Novy was the only one given a copy of this document, which he no longer has.  Dagmar also destroys the notion that "cold fire" would have been used in the first place as it does not burn the clothing or skin of the users of the product.  It's rather used in circuses by clowns. 

There's a break in the trial.  Dagmar calls for Pavlovsky, but cannot get in touch with him.  The judge takes some pills to calm herself down probably.  Pavel goes in search of journalist Pavlovsky. 

The trial begins again.  A witness at the meeting says that Novy only spoke positive words about Jan Palach.  He called him an honest man.  Ondrej just laughs at these obvious lies.  The witness was a teacher in a high school, but just recently (suspiciously), he was made the principal of the school. 

Comrade Hazura testifies but he says he was not paying attention to Novy's speech.  He is let go. 

The hearings are closed for the day.  The disciplinary board for Radim tell him that they will issue a departmental reprimand for Radim.  Radim asks if he can appeal the decision?  Yes.  Radim leaves the room and in the hall smashes a chair over a table.  His boss tells him that he got the smallest possible punishment. He says the old hag in the room wanted to get Radim fired. 

Jiri Palach has to speak to the official in charge of the cemetery where Jan Palach is buried.  Translated from bureaucratic language, the higher ups don't like that Jan Palach's grave is constantly attracting visitors to it and they want this stopped.  The grave promotes anti-government and anti-Soviet feelings.  Therefore, they want Jiri to agree to a transfer of his brother's grave somewhere less prominent.  Jiri refuses to cooperate. 

Dagmar runs into Pavlovsky.  She chases him down to ask him why didn't he testify?  He pretends he doesn't know what Dagmar is talking about.  So what can Dagmar do now?  She says they will have to file Novy's prison records as a piece of evidence.  Dagmar and Pavel, however, can't find the file at all.  Pavel mentions the time he thought he saw Vladimir coming out of Dagmar's office.  He confronted Vladimir but he said he was not in Dagmar's office.

Vladimir has a meal in a restaurant with the defense attorney.  He hands the prison records over to the man.  Then Vladimir asks if he can count on their earlier agreement that Vladka will not be investigated when the student movement is investigated?  The defense attorney says:  "If I can trust you."  Vladimir motions that he gave the defense attorney the prison file. 

Jiri and his mother will attend the next trial session.  They walk into the "court room" with Dagmar.  Dagmar goes into see the judge and Jiri goes to get his mother glass of water.  So, Novy goes over to Jan's mother and starts talking to her.  She asks him to leave, but Novy doesn't leave.  He keeps on talking and upsetting the mother.  Novy finally leaves when Jiri returns with the water and tells Novy that he believes Novy's proper seat is over there on the defense side. 

A young man testifies that some long-haired types got into the meeting without an invitation.  He was supposed to keep these people out, but he says he was just overwhelmed by the size of the crowd.  He couldn't properly manage that many people coming in at once.  This testament gives Dagmar the idea to find some of these long-haired types and get them to testify.  The witness at the trial sees Dagmar on the streets.  He comes out of his barber shop to tell her that someone did record the meeting.  They had a car with a radio station logo.  He gets real nervous, says that's all he knows and leaves. 

Dagmar and Pavel start calling around to radio stations.  Vladimir comes to her office to ask how's it going?  She takes him to the side and asks him if he has seen the prison record for Novy?  Vladimir says no.  He also tries to blame Pavel, saying he never did trust the guy. 

Pavel sees an advertisement.  Feb. 20, Czechoslovak Radio presents Carrier Pigeon Races.  That give him an idea. 

Radim tells Dagmar that he is leaving the department and the hospital.  He doesn't know what he'll do right now.  The door bell rings.  It's Pavel talking about the radio station that was supposed to cover the pigeon races on February 20.  The station almost missed the races because they were delayed in Ceska Lipa. 

The next day Pavel and Dagmar go to the radio station.  They listen to Novy's speech and Mr. Hana says he would be willing to testify. 

Jiri is back with the head of the cemetery.  This time, the official says, if Jiri doesn't agree, then Jan's body can be buried in  pauper's graveyard and Jiri and his mother will never find it. Jiri still won't agree.  Jiri goes to visit Jan's grave.  At home, Jiri asks his mother to move in with his family. Mother says no.

The Novy trial begins again.  Dagmar submits the audio recording of the meeting in question into evidence.  Novy says: "I've got proof that Palach was mentally unstable.  He attempted suicide many times.  . . . Could such an unstable and rather stupid young man have acted alone, or was he led by someone more experienced? . . .  It's about a group of five students called the Death Five, which  collaborated with Travnicek.  He is the one who promised Palach that the chemicals he applied would be those used for 'cold fire' with minimal risk of lethal burns."

The judge goes into the adjoining room and is handed the verdict.  While the people wait for the verdict, Dagmar asks Novy why did he do it when he knows it was all lies.  Novy tells her that she doesn't understand anything:  ". . . for a politician, the truth is what is beneficial for the nation."

Now the judge calls everyone in.  Novy advices Dagmar:  "Try not to take it so personally."

The verdict says that:  "The defendant Vilem Novy expressed his opinions not as a private person but as a Member of Parliament at an official meeting of the Communist National Front.  At the time, Czechoslovak socialism was under threat.  In such conditions, the accused was not only entitled, but obliged to take the stand as he did."  Mother Palach speaks up saying that this is a disgrace. 

The judge says the plaintiffs must pay the defendant's legal costs. Mother keeps criticizing and the judge reads the rest of the judgment as fast as she can.  Then she quickly leaves the "court room". 

The defense attorney assures Vladimir that he need not worry about his daughter. 

The grave of Jan Palach is moved under cover of darkness. 

Radim goes off to work early in the morning.  The girls now climb in bed with their mother.

The coffin and body of Jan Palach are cremated.

Mother and Jiri go the cemetery.  The grave of Jan Palach has been replaced by another person's grave.  Mother starts walking and shouting where is her son's grave? 


"January, 1989, 20 years after the death of Jan Palach."  Young people still hang up posters and spread fliers of Jan Palach.  In 1989, the 20th anniversary of Jan Palach's death saw the largest demonstrations against the Communist regime since the 1960s.  Ten months later, the totalitarian regime in Czechoslovakia collapsed.  In December, 1989, Dr. Dagmar Buresova was appointed Minister of Justice.  Jan Palach was posthumously given the Order of T. G. Masaryk in 1991, for outstanding contributions to democracy and human rights."

"This film is dedicated to the memory of Jan Palach, Jan Zajic, Evzen Plocek, Ryszard Siwiec and all those who sacrificed their lives in the struggle for freedom."




Good film.  I enjoyed it very much.  The film is suspenseful because one keeps wondering how in the world can the plaintiff's case be tried with so many obstacles thrown in the lawyer's way, with so many witnesses afraid to appear and so many demands by the Soviets for the verdict that they expect and demand.  The case looks hopeless, but then there are some surprises.  The film is a good account of what happened after the put down by the Soviets of the Prague Uprising.  Director Agnieszka Holland (born 1948) is a Polish film and television director and screenwriter, and one of Poland's most eminent filmmakers.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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