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This paper puts the Czech New Wave film-maker Jirí Menzel into a philosophical discourse with the Czech phenomenologist Jan Patočka. Essentially the paper argues that an examination of Menzel’s films offers a criticism of Patočka’s understanding of the role of the dissident sacrifice. The two films explored are the 1966 film Closely Watched Trains (Ostre sledované vlaky), and the 1969 film (although not released until 1990 due to censorship) Larks on a String (Skrivánci na niti). These two films make a succinct argument for problematizing the dissident’s sacrifice. Patočka argues that the dissident sacrifice is an act which is meaningful in itself. Menzel makes his criticism by adding a deal of ambiguity to the actions of the dissident, and this ambiguity places a question mark over the meaning of the sacrificial act and its effect.
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