Slovak film after 1945

In July 1945 the Ministry of Information established the Slofis film company and Karol Plicka became its chairman. Based on the agreement between the Slovak Ministry of Information in Bratislava and the Ministry of Information in Prague, the administration of cinemas and film distribution and production now fell under the administration of Slofis. The radio studio at Jakubovo námestie in Bratislava was adapted for the shooting of smaller interior film scenes and became the first temporary film studio in Slovakia. Other technological and commercial areas (including studios and laboratories and the export and import of films) were to be managed centrally from Prague. The film laboratories in Slovakia began their activities in 1947. One year after its establishment, Slofis became part of the Czechoslovak Film Company.
In accordance with Eduard Beneš’ Presidential Decree No 50/1945 (Digest) on Measures in the Field of Film, all facets of cinematography were legally nationalised immediately after the end of World War II and the property of all film enterprises at that time were transferred to the ownership of the state. The Presidential Decree ordered all non-state enterprises and individuals conducting business in cinematography to hand over to the state all property, films, material and supplies used in the film business. All property rights, including the copyrights to the films, were also transferred to the state. The Presidential Decree was legislatively applied in Slovakia by a Slovak National Council Order from 1947. But due to the fact that the state monopoly in the Slovak cinematographic sector had already been in force during the previous period, the post-war transition of film into the hands of the state proved to be a much less complicated process in Slovakia than it did in the Czech Republic.
The terms of the Presidential Decree on Measures in the Field of Film constituted one of the first political measures taken towards the ultimate goal of full assumption of state power over private businesses. Under the conditions of an unstable post-war democracy, the full nationalisation of cinematic property and the introduction of the state monopoly of cinematographic business activities made the film industry the first sector of the economy to be affected. This political economic tendency eventually culminated after the communist coup of 1948 in the liquidation of private businesses and the nationalisation of all production enterprises. Henceforth the state and its agencies alone were eligible to produce, export, import, distribute and screen films and to operate film studios and film processing laboratories in the territory of Czechoslovakia. Amateur film was the only exception.
The nationalisation of all important cinematographic activities in Czechoslovakia was followed by the centralisation of cinematographic administrative management. This was achieved through the establishment of the monopoly state organisation Czechoslovak State Film by means of a government order on 13 April 1948. This centralisation was to remain in place until 1969 when, after the proclamation of federation, virtually the entire Slovak cinematographic sector was transferred to the administration of the Slovak Ministry of Culture. However, some areas (notably the export of films and partially the purchase of foreign films) remained in the competency of organisations located in Prague.
The Presidential Decree of 1945 remained valid and effective for almost half a century, and only in the 1990s, after the fall of the Communist regime, was it replaced by new legal regulations for the field of cinematography and audiovisual work (in 1992 in the Czech Republic and in 1996 in Slovakia). Despite the controversial character of this nationalisation of cinematography and the directive nature of its management, it did provide the basic starting point for the development of Slovak film over the following decades, including technological and personnel developments. Crucially, investment by the state gradually ensured the creation and continual development of cinematography in Slovakia as an integral and functioning economic-cultural system, enabling the complex production of feature films, documentaries, animation films and newsreels, with appropriate facilities and technologies, distribution and cinema networks, film archives, and professional film training, adult education and amateur film activities.
After 1945 an ongoing programme of feature film production became the main ambition of the Slovak film industry and its founders. However, the nationalisation and centralisation of the film industry left Slovak film highly dependent on the assistance of Czech filmmakers and film technologies. From the outset the Slovak film industry continually struggled with the shortage of technological and professional capacities. Only in the first half of the 1950s did construction of the film studios in Bratislava get underway; thereafter the production of Slovak feature films began to acquire an element of continuity as the financial, technical and creative aspects of the Slovak film industry fell steadily into place.
The year 1946 saw the creation of the full-length feature film Varuj…! (‘Warn Him…!’), based on the drama Bačova žena (‘The Shepherd’s Wife’) by Ivan Stodola. The film was made by the Slovak Film Company with Czech film makers in decisive creative roles (director Martin Frič, director of photography Václav Hanuš, screenplay Karel Steklý) and with the co-participation of Paľo Bielik, who played the main character and worked as co-director. Premiered on 24 April 1947 in Bratislava, the film focused on the subject of Slovak emigration, and its critical social orientation with emphasis on a strong dramatic story and elements of national and social pathos. It was one of the first steps in the development of a dominant thematic line in Slovak feature film production for some time thereafter.
With the participation of experienced Czech film makers (director Václav Wasserman, director of photography Jan Roth), the feature film Čertova stena (‘The Devil’s Wall’) was made in 1948 by the Studio of Artistic Films, Bratislava, part of Czechoslovak State Film. The screenplay was written by Ondrej Jariabek, who was also the co-author of the story together with dramatist Ivan Bukovčan. The significance of this film lies in the fact that Čertova stena marked the first occasion on which a Slovak feature film attempted to break into the field of popular situation comedy.
The film Vlčie diery (‘The Wolves’ Lairs’, 1948) by director and screenwriter Paľo Bielik represented a turning point in the development of Slovak feature films. This film introduced one of the main themes of Slovak cinematography in the post-war period – anti-fascist resistance. Set during the Slovak National Uprising, the story involves highly dramatic situations and strong characterisation. In contrast to many other Slovak war films, Vlčie diery does not offer a simplified depiction of the characters according to their political background or national origin, but strives to create living and complex characters which are manifested in dramatic living situations. Through this film – and in the second half of the 1950s also through the films Štyridsaťštyri (‘Forty-four Mutineers’) and Kapitán Dabač (‘Captain Dabač’) – Paľo Bielik displayed his personal attitude to the interpretation of historical experience and reality and at the same time succeeded in creating effective and mature films. The premiere of the film took place on 25 December 1948. Vlčie diery became Slovak film’s biggest box office success and director Paľo Bielik became the determining film personality of the first decade of the post-war development of the Slovak film industry.