Who could have imagined a little quip has the power to destroy a man’s life? Shot during the Prague Spring, the film is an adaptation of Milan Kundera’s novel of the same name. Set in 1950s Czechoslovakia during the Communist regime, university student Ludvík writes a joke for his lover, who reports him to the Communist party. When Ludvík returns to Prague fifteen years later, he vows to avenge those who have wronged him. Director Jaromil Jireš uses precise cross-cuts of the protagonist’s harrowing past and his present-day revisit, illustrating how the hypocritical “democracy” built with a phony façade has allowed a malevolent moment that causes lifelong trauma. Perhaps the meticulously calculated revenge plot has been reduced to a new joke. This is as ironic as the post-revolutionary generation’s abandonment of Stalin's communism for their pursuit of a petty bourgeois lifestyle.
1935年生於布拉迪斯拉發（現斯洛伐克），2001年於布拉格逝世。同樣畢業 於捷克電影電視學院（FAMU），但礙於當時嚴謹的審查制度，未如其他新浪潮導演多產。60年代時只獲許拍攝兩部長片，卻不阻其作品受到國際關注。畢業後首作The Cry（1963) 即入圍法國康城影展，而其最為享負盛名的作品《玩笑》（1969）改編自米蘭・昆德拉的首本長篇小說，因旗幟鮮明地控訴極權主義，於短暫上映後旋即遭到政府封禁長達二十年。70年的作品《瓦萊莉和她的奇跡一週》即被認為是捷克新浪潮的最後一部作品，蘇聯入侵後選擇留國發展，及後的職業生涯仍熱衷創作，但將重心轉移於藝術紀錄片與電視劇。
Jaromil Jireš was born in 1935 in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (Now the Slovakia Republic) and passed away in 2001 in Prague. Also an alumnus of FAMU, he was, however, less fortunate than his fellow schoolmates in terms of gaining approval from the authority. As a result, he was only able to produce two features in the 60s. Yet it did not stop the world from noticing his creative prowess. His first feature, The Cry (1963), made its debut at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival. The Joke (1969), adapted from the novel of the renowned Czech writer, Milan Kundera, was widely recognised as one of the hallmarks of the Czech New Wave. The film’s unapologetic criticism towards the totalitarian regime led to a 20-year ban after its short-lived release. His later work, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970), arguably the last film of the Czech New Wave, was produced after the Soviet invasion. After which, he had stayed in the country to carry on his filmmaking career, as well as working on arts documentaries and television works.