The Firemen's Ball (1967) / Comedy

MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG due to some sexual situations      
Running Time: 71 min.

Cast: Josef Kolb, Marie Jezkova, Jan Vostrcil, Josef Svet, Josef Sebanek, Josef Valnoha
Director:  Milos Forman
Screenplay: Milos Forman, Juroslav Papousek, Ivan Passer, Vaclav Sasek

Review published March 27, 2003

Milos Forman's THE FIREMEN'S BALL belongs to the group of lauded works that can only be truly appreciated if seen in the social and political context by which it's inspired.  This would be Forman's last movie made in his homeland of Czechoslovakia, which would see the Russians take over and turn it into a Communist country, causing Forman to flee West and films like this to be banned permanently.  BALL is on the surface about a firemen's ball in which everything seems to go wrong, but underneath it is more of an satire of what's wrong with the Communist regime, through their self-serving decadence to their ineptitude which provides the impetus to the moral and social decay in the country.

With the Soviet Union no longer in existence, and Communism all but gone in the region, Forman's satire has lost much of its bite for many viewers who may catch this nowadays.  However, there is still much to praise even if taken at face value.  Forman's direction is terrific, creating a very realistic atmosphere and dynamic presentation of the events as they unfold.  Most of the actors are not professional, and the delivery sometimes shows, even with the subtitles, but if not for some stiff delivery and some of the funnier bits, THE FIREMEN'S BALL feels very much like it is taking place during a real firemen's ball. 

Fans of Forman's as well as historians who are looking for some good insider's perspective commentary on Communism will find THE FIREMEN'S BALL a richly rewarding experience.  Those who are seeking lots of laughs will probably come away somewhat disappointed, as this comedy of errors isn't acclaimed for being a hilarious laugh riot, and even at 71 minutes, it'll feel a little long to watch a film where a bunch of incompetent fools flounder.  Not for every taste, this is a film you'll probably want to study the background of before viewing for the first time.

Qwipster's rating:

2003 Vince Leo