Title: Degeneration of the Homosexual Phantasm in Normalised Czechoslovak Cinema: From Václav Krška’s The False Prince (1956) to Stanislav Strnad’s The Bronze Boys (1980)


Szymański, Karol

Date issued/created:


Resource Type:

Article : original article


Studia z Dziejów Rosji i Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej Vol. 52 no 2 (2017), Special Issue


Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences


Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences

Place of publishing:



p. 77-141 ; Summary in English and Russian. ; Continues: Studia z Dziejów ZSRR i Europy Środkowej


The author – inspired by the notion of “phantasm” as proposed by Maria Janion, and using the concepts of, among others, German Ritz (the poetics of inexpressible homosexual desire and “complex of corporality”), Marc Ferro (film as a symptom revealing the “hidden side” of power and society) and Michel Foucault (“arrangement of sexuality”) – examines the attitude of Czechoslovak cinema towards male nudity and sexuality in a broader context of socio-political history and filmmaking in Czechoslovakia after the Second World War. An analysis, centred on two films: the Labakan (The False Prince) by Václav Krška (1956), and Kluci z bronzu (Boys of Bronze) by Stanislav Strnad (1980), is to comparatively examine how homosexual phantasms were sublimated and transferred to the screen in two historical moments – in the second half of the fifties, i.e. when the country was going out of the Stalinist and socialist realism period, and at the turn of the eighties, that is in the middle of the period of normalization and the regime of Gustáv Husák. The main purpose of the analysis is to examine a symptomatic change in quality – called by Szymański as “degeneration” – of the way in which homosexual imaginations were disclosed and functioned in films, that reflected their appropriation, “reorientation” and exploitation by the totalitarian authorities. In the rich literary, dramatic and film achievements of Krška we find many homosexual “hidden signals” as well as clear connotations and indications, expressing themselves in, among other things, spectacularization and erotization of the male body, a peculiar construct of protagonists-outsiders, questioning of gender stereotypes, stylisation modelled on antiquity, oriental or expressionistic one, etc. Special place in his creativity is occupied by the Czechoslovak-Bulgarian film super-production titled Labakan (The False Prince), in which the adaptation of the fairy tale about a tailor’s apprentice who wanted to take the place of the vizier’s son became for the director a vehicle for his personal, author’s commentary. The homosexual (homotextual) character of Krška’s film reveals itself in its transgressive plot open to a “double reading”, in its specific pansexuality and the “complex of male corporality”, governed by the logic of covetous look, and in the paracamp aesthetic associated today with queer style. In Szymański’s opinion, the materialization of homosexual phantasms on the screen offered both for the author and the spectators an area of freedom and “artistry of life”: on the one hand it offered them shelter and was an escape from the oppressive cultural reality, on the other – it was becoming the means to contest and the practice of resistance to the heteronormative and totalitarian world. ; Whereas a barracks-sports farce titled Kluci z bronzu (Boys of Bronze) by Stanislav Strnad belongs to a bigger group of films which in this popular form were taking up the subject of exceptional and unique on the world scale events – Czechoslovak Spartakiads, with their most spectacular part in the form of mass gymnastic compositions performed at the Strahov Stadium in Prague. The fictional history of soldiers, who – overcoming their limitations and reverses of fortune, were preparing a composition of artistic gymnastics for the Spartakiads, was combined with documental shots of the real performing sports compositions at the Strahov in 1980. It inscribes into the normalized film “formats”, that is the tested and “patented” stylistic and genre formulas used by the authorities as “soft” means of propaganda and indoctrination. The way in which Strnad presents military and sport homosocial relations, together with a domination in the film of the element of masculinity and the specific “complex of male corporality”, imply some special interrelation between the erotisation of the male body, ideological directives, and political needs. What is more, according to Szymański, they also indicate that the purpose of the communist authorities was not only the “standard” creation and propagation of “appropriate” models of “real” masculinity, but also such shaping of male corporality and eroticism that they would support the existing political order instead of subverting it, and replicate the normalized “arrangement of sexuality”. In this context the author looks closely at the Spartakiada’s mass gymnastic exercises demon-strated by male gymnasts, and especially at the hugely popular shows performed by almost fourteen thousand of half-naked soldiers, which were an unprecedented in the communist public space celebration of male physicality and sensuality, characterised by special idealisation and aestheticisation, outstanding choreography and spectacular figures of the performers, erotic dialectics of clothes and nudity, and the condensation of tension which was gradually and sophisticatedly built. In these shows, the instrumentalisation of gender and eroticism, characteristic of Spartiakiads in general, was followed by the instrumentalisation of codes of homosexual look and desire, neutralisation of inversive connotations – were harnessed for the use of normalization. Homosexual phantasms which in the time of Krška could have been a stimulant of personal expression and practice of opposition, and at least an internal shelter and refuge, twenty years later were appropriated, manipulated and instrumentalised by the communist authorities, becoming part of their system normalizing procedures, a tool for ordering or “arranging sexuality” in accordance with political lines, and an instrument of self-totalitaring and self-harnessing actions.


“Banská Bystrica 1959. Dokumenty ke kontextům I. festivalu československého filmu”, Iluminace, 2004, no. 4, p. 139–222. ; Barthes R., “Trzeci sens. Poszukiwania na podstawie kilku fotogramów z filmów S.N. Eisensteina”, transl. R. Wyborski, Kino, 1971, no. 11, pp. 37–41. ; Bártová H., “Proměny novinářského diskurzu ve vztahu k vnímání poetického filmu Václava Kršky”, bakalářská diplomová práce, Olomouc, Univerzita Palackého, 2012. ; Berger J., Ways of seeing, London, 1972. ; Bernard J., Jan Němec. Enfant terrible české nové vlny. Díl I: 1954–1974, Praha, 2014. ; Blažejovský J., “Normalizační film”, Cinepur, 2002, no. 21, pp. 6–11. ; Blažejovský J., “Trezor a jeho děti. Poznámky k zakázaným filmům v socialistických kinematografiích”, Iluminace, 2010, no. 3, pp. 8–27. ; Blüher H., “Teoria męskiej społeczności”, in: Rewolucja konserwatywna w Niemczech. 1918– 1933, ed. W. Kunicki, transl. T. Gabiś et al., Poznań, 1999, pp. 254–272. ; Bordwell D., Staiger J., Thompson K., The classical Hollywood cinema. Film style and mode of production to 1960, New York, 1985. ; Březina V., Lexikon českého filmu. 2000 filmů 1930–1996, Praha, 1996. ; Bronski M., The pleasure principle. Sex, backlash, and the struggle for gay freedom, New York, 2000, http://www.echonyc.com/~stone/Features/PleasureEx2.html. ; Butler J., “Zapis na ciele, performatywna wywrotowość”, transl. I. Kurz, in: Lektury inności. Antologia, eds. M. Dąbrowski, R. Pruszczyński, Warszawa, 2007, pp. 36–46 Černý J., Eduard Cupák, Praha, 1998. ; Černý J., Intimní divadlo Václava Kršky, České Budějovice, 1998, https://www.antikvariat-5d. cz/autor-cerny-jiri-45107.aspx?isr=0 ; Český hraný film VI. 1981–1993. Czech Feature Film VI. 1981–1993, Praha, 2010. ; Činátl K., Poetika normalizace. Filmové obrazy Československa sedmdesátých a osmdesátých let v školním dějepisu, http://www.ustrcr.cz/cs/poetika-normalizace. ; Činátlová B., “Dederon a stadion aneb Tělo poučené z krizového vývoje”, in: Tesilová kavalérie. Popkulturní obrazy normalizacje, wybrali a uspořádali P.A. Bílek, B. Činátlová, Příbram, 2010, pp. 124–134. ; Clark K., Akt. Studium idealnej formy, transl. J. Bomba, Warszawa, 1998. ; Duda M., Formánková B., “Český národ v posteli”, Cinepur, 2002, no. 22, pp. 24–25. ; Dvořák J., Poetický svět Václava Kršky, Praha, 1989. ; Dyer R., “Coming to terms. Gay pornography”, in: id., Only entertainment, London–New York, 2002, pp. 138–150. ; Elsaesser T., “Nowa Historia Filmu jako archeologia mediów”, transl. G. Nadgrodkiewicz, Kwartalnik Filmowy, 2009, no. 67–68, pp. 8–41. ; Farmer B., Spectacular passions. Cinema, fantasy, gay male spectatorships, Durham, 2000. ; Ferro M., Kino i historia, transl. T. Falkowski, Warszawa, 2011. ; Filipowicz M., “Panowie, bądźmy Czechami, ale nikt nie musi o tym widzieć…”. Wzorce męskości w kulturze czeskiej XIX wieku, Kraków, 2013. ; Foucault M., Historia seksualności, transl. B. Banasiak, T. Komendant, K. Matuszewski, Warszawa, 1995. ; Griffiths R., “Bodies without borders? Queer cinema and sexuality after the fall”, in: Queer cinema in Europe, ed. R. Griffiths, Bristol–Chicago, 2008, pp. 129–143. ; Gunning T., “An aesthetic of astonishment. Early film and the (in)credulous spectator”, in: Viewing positions. Ways of seeing film, ed. L. Williams, New Brunswick, 1995, pp. 114–133. ; Gwóźdź A., “‘Drogi do siły i piękna’ albo o kulturze czasu wolnego w kinie Niemiec weimarskich”, in: Kino niemieckie w dialogu pokoleń i kultur. Studia i szkice, ed. A. Gwóźdź, Kraków, 2004, pp. 47–62. ; Hain M. a kol., Osudová osamělost. Obrysy filmové a literární tvorby Václava Kršky, Praha, 2016. ; Hames P., The Czechoslovak New Wave, London, 2005. ; Hanáková P., “Ślepa plamka w oku postępu. Wypieranie przestrzeni prywatnej w filmach realizmu socjalistycznego”, transl. R. Kulmiński, in: Doświadczenie i dziedzictwo totalitaryzmu na obszarze kultur środkowoeuropejskich, eds. J. Goszczyńska, J. Królak, R. Kulmiński, Warszawa, 2011, pp. 216–229. ; Havel V., “Siła bezsilnych”, transl. A. Holland, in: id., Siła bezsilnych i inne eseje, selected by A.S. Jagodziński, Warszawa, 2011, pp. 87–158. ; Havelková H., Oates-Indruchová L., “Expropriated voice. Transformations of gender culture under state socialism; Czech society, 1948–89”, in: The politics of gender culture under state socialism. An expropriated voice, eds. H. Havelková, L. Oates-Indruchová, London–New York, 2014, https://books.google.pl/books?id=TU3IAgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=The+Politics+of+Gender+Culture+under+State+Socialism:+An+Expropriated+Voice&hl=pl&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=The%20Politics%20of%20Gender%20 Culture%20under%20State%20Socialism%3A%20An%20Expropriated%20Voice&f=false. ; Haynes J., New Soviet man. Gender and masculinity in Stalinist Soviet cinema, Manchester, 2003. ; Hobsbawm E., “Man and woman in socialist iconography”, History Workshop Journal, 1978, no. 6, pp. 121–138. ; Hollinghurst A., Obce dziecko, transl. H. Pawlikowska-Gannon, Warszawa, 2012. ; Hoppe J., “Normalizace a československá kinematografie. Dokumenty z archivu ÚV KSČ”, Iluminace, 1997, no. 1, pp. 157–201. ; hs [H. Smolińska], “Anna, siostra Jany”, Filmowy Serwis Prasowy, 1977, no. 2, pp. 15–16. ; Hulík Š., Kinematografie zapomnění. Počátky normalizace ve Filmovém studiu Barrandov (1968–1973), Praha, 2012. ; Hulík Š., “Nástup normalizace ve Filmovém studiu Barrandov”, Iluminace, 2010, no. 2, pp. 47–66. ; Jagielski S., Maskarady męskości. Pragnienie homospołeczne w polskim kinie fabularnym, Kraków, 2013. ; Janion M., Prace wybrane, vol. 3: Zło i fantazmaty, Kraków, 2001. ; Johnson K.B., “Eroticism, power, and fate in the cinema of Central Europe”, in: Visegrad cinema. Points of contact from the New Wave to the present, eds. P. Hanáková, K.B. Johnson, Praha, 2010, pp. 39–64. ; Kitliński T., Leszkowicz P., “Homotekstualność. Homoseksualność i twórczość”, in: Lektury inności. Antologia, eds. M. Dąbrowski, R. Pruszczyński, Warszawa, 2007, pp. 145–159. ; Klimeš I., “Filmaři a komunistická moc v Československu. Vzrušený rok 1959”, Iluminace, 2004, no. 4, pp. 129–138. ; Kochanowski J., Fantazmat zróżnicowany. Socjologiczne studium przemian tożsamości gejów, Kraków, 2004. ; Kopal P., “Jaká normalizace? Několik poznámek o (ne)normalizaci filmové a televizní tvorby”, Paměť a dějiny, 2013, no. 3, pp. 127–134. ; Kosofsky Sedgwick E., “Męskie pragnienie homospołeczne i polityka seksualności”, selected and translated by A. Ostolski, Krytyka Polityczna, 2005, no. 9–10, pp. 176–186. ; Kracauer S., “Ornament z ludzkiej masy”, transl. C. Jenne, in: Wobec faszyzmu, selected and prefaced by H. Orłowski, Warszawa, 1987, pp. 11–23. ; Kroutvor J., “Europa Środkowa. Anegdota i historia”, transl. J. Stachowski, in: Hrabal, Kundera, Havel… Antologia czeskiego eseju, ed. J. Baluch, Kraków, 2001, pp. 223–291. ; Lauš J., “Václav Krška a jeho filmy. Řeky, životopisy a další”, Film a Video, 14 October 2013, http://www.filmavideo.cz/index.php/co-jste-mozna-nevedeli/568-krska. ; Lehman P., Running scared. Masculinity and the representation of the male body, Detroit, 2007. ; Liehm A.J., “Filmy pod specjalnym nadzorem. Doświadczenie czechosłowackie”, transl. A. Jagodziński, P. Krauze, T. Grabiński, Film na Świecie, 2003, no. 404. ; Liehm A.J., Ostře sledované filmy. Československá zkušenost, Praha, 2001. ; Liehm M., Liehm A.J., The most important art. Eastern European film after 1945, Berkeley–Los Angeles–London, 1977. ; Lukeš J., Diagnózy času. Český a slovenský poválečný film (1945–2012), Praha, 2013. ; Lukeš J., “Jak nastupovala v českém filmu normalizace”, Iluminace, 1997, no. 1, pp. 113–155. ; MacKinnon K., Love, tears, and the male spectator, Madison–London, 2002. ; Macura V., Šťastný věk. Symboly, emblémy a mýty 1948–1989, Praha, 1992. ; Mazierska E., Masculinities in Polish, Czech and Slovak cinema. Black Peters and men of marble, New York–Oxford, 2010. ; Michaud Y., “Wizualizacje. Ciało i sztuki wizualne”, in: Historia ciała, vol. 3: Różne spojrzenia. Wiek XX, ed. J.-J. Courtine, transl. K. Belaid, T. Stróżyński, Gdańsk, 2014, pp. 391–410. ; Mulvey L., “Przyjemność wzrokowa a kino narracyjne”, transl. J. Mach, in: Panorama współczesnej myśli filmowej, ed. A. Helman, Kraków, 1992, pp. 95–107. ; Naplánovaná kinematografie. Český filmový průmysl 1945 až 1960, ed. P. Skopal, Praha, 2013. ; Neale S., “Masculinity as spectacle. Reflections on men and mainstream cinema”, Screen, 1983, no. 6, pp. 2–17. ; Nozar L., “Literát, divadelník a trestanec. Životní osudy Václava Kršky”, Dějiny a současnost, 2007, no. 12, http://dejinyasoucasnost.cz/archiv/2007/12/literat-divadelnik-a-trestanec-/. ; Nozar L., “Momenty života a díla Václava Kršky do roku 1945”, in: Homosexualita w dějinách české kultury, eds. M.C. Putna a kol., Praha, 2013, pp. 395–431. ; Panorama českého filmu, sestavil L. Ptáček, Olomouc 2000. ; Pinkas J., “Reprezentace každodennosti tzv. normalizacje v didaktické praxi”, in: Film a dějiny 4. Normalizace, ed. P. Kopal, Praha, 2014, pp. 585–604. ; Piotrowski G., “Podwójny świat. Uwagi o narracji i tożsamości w tekstach homoseksualnych Jarosława Iwaszkiewicza”, in: id., Pre-teksty. Myśli czytelnika i widza, Toruń, 2007, pp. 7–24. ; Přádná S., “Balancování na hraně možného. Tvorba Věry Chytilové v období normalizace”, in: Film a dějiny 4. Normalizace, ed. P. Kopal, Praha, 2014, pp. 41–71. ; Přádná S., “Poetika postav, typů, (ne)herců”, in: S. Přádná, Z. Škapová, J. Cieslar, Démanty všednosti. Český a slovenský film 60. let. Kapitoly o nové vlně, Praha, 2002, pp. 149–298. ; Przylipiak M., Kino stylu zerowego. Z zagadnień estetyki filmu fabularnego, Gdańsk, 1994. ; Putna M.C., “Od Kršky do Trošky. Homosexualita a český film”, in: Homosexualita w dějinách české kultury, eds. M.C. Putna a kol., Praha, 2013, pp. 448–468. ; Rawski J., “Seksowny faszyzm jako egzemplifikacja relacji płci i władzy”, Teksty Drugie, 2015, no. 2, pp. 234–255. ; Ritz G., “Literatura w labiryncie pożądania. Homoseksualność a literatura polska”, transl.A. Kopacki, in: Lektury inności. Antologia, eds. M. Dąbrowski, R. Pruszczyński, Warszawa, 2007, pp. 193–200. ; Ritz G., Nić w labiryncie pożądania. Gender i płeć w literaturze polskiej od romantyzmu do modernizmu, transl. B. Drąg, A. Kopacki, M. Łukasiewicz, Warszawa, 2002. ; Roubal P., Československé spartakiady, Praha, 2016. ; Roubal P., “Jak ochutnat komunistický ráj. Dvojí tvář československých spartakiad”, Dějiny a současnost, 2006, no. 6, http://dejinyasoucasnost.cz/archiv/2006/6/jak-ochutnat-komu- nisticky-raj-/. ; Roubal P., “Krása a síla – genderový aspekt československých spartakiad”, Gender, rovné příležitosti, výzkum, 2005, no. 2, pp. 10–14. ; Roubal P., “Politics of gymnastics. Mass gymnastic displays under communism in Central and Eastern Europe”, Body & Society, 2003, no. 2, pp. 1–25. ; Roubal P., “The body of the nation. The Czechoslovak Spartakiades from a gender perspective”, in: The politics of gender culture under state socialism. An expropriated voice, eds. H. Havelková, L. Oates-Indruchová, London–New York, 2014, https://books.google.pl/ books?id=TU3IAgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=The+Politics+of+Gender+Culture+under+State+Socialism:+An+Expropriated+Voice&hl=pl&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=The%20Politics%20of%20Gender%20Culture%20under%20State%20Socialism%3A%20An%20Expropriated%20Voice&f=false. ; Shembel D., “The spectacle of masculinity in sports and dance. Grigorii Alexandrov’s The Circus and Abram Room’s A Stern Young Man – a paradigm and a pariah, Blok, 2004, no. 3, pp. 71–88. ; Shen Q., The politics of magic. DEFA fairy-tale films, Chicago, 2015. ; Šimanová H., “Spartakiáda z aktérské perspektivy”, diplomová prace, Plzeň, 2013, https://otik. uk.zcu.cz/bitstream/handle/11025/8532/DP%20Simanova%20Hana.pdf?sequence=1. ; Škapová Z., “Cesty k moderní filmové poetice”, in: S. Přádná, Z. Škapová, J. Cieslar, Démanty všednosti. Český a slovenský film 60. let. Kapitoly o nové vlně, Praha, 2002, pp. 11–147. ; Skopal P., Filmová kultura severního trojúhelníku. Filmy, kina a diváci českých zemí, NDR a Polska 1945–1970, Brno, 2014. ; Skupa L., “Všechno je krásné (mezi námi kluky). Queer aspekty filmů Václava Kršky”, Cinepur, 2010, no. 71, pp. 19–21. ; Škvorecký J., All the bright young men and women. A personal history of the Czech cinema, transl. M. Schonberg, Toronto–Montreal, 1975. ; Skwara A., “Film socrealistyczny – ciało ekranowe jako inskrypcja ideologii?”, in: Socrealizm. Fabuły – komunikaty – ikony, eds. K. Stępnik, M. Piechota, Lublin, 2006, pp. 315–323. ; Smolińska H., “Mój brat ma fajnego brata”, Filmowy Serwis Prasowy, 1976, no. 16, pp. 16–17. ; Sontag S., “Notatki o kampie”, transl. W. Wertenstein, Literatura na Świecie, 1979, no. 9, pp. 306–323. ; Stuchlý J., Milujem to, co ztrácíme…, http://25fps.cz/2011/ohnive-leto/. ; Švankmajer J., Dimensions of dialogue / Between film and fine art, concept and text F. Dryje, B. Schmitt, Praha, 2012. ; Szymański K., “Film czechosłowacki odnaleziony”, Kwartalnik Filmowy, 2011, no. 75–76, pp. 323–331. ; Świdziński W., Co było grane? Film zagraniczny w Polsce w latach 1918–1929 na przykładzie Warszawy, Warszawa, 2015. ; Taussig P., “Filmový lyrik Václav Krška”, Film a Video, http://www.filmavideo.cz/index.php/ osobnosti/236-vaclav-krska. ; Thorne V., “Těla v pohybu. Masovà gymnastika jako kolektivní sociàlní představení”, Sociàlní Studia, 2011, no. 1, pp. 99–117. ; Tousey B., “The hidden mythos of ‘Police academy’”, PopMatters, http://www.popmatters.com/ feature/143871-the-hidden-mythos-of-police-academy/. ; Vincendeau G., “Od Proletariusza do Ojca Chrzestnego. Jean Gabin i ‘paradygmat’ francuskiej męskości”, transl. A. Piskorz, in: Gender w kinie europejskim i mediach, ed. E. Ostrowska, Kraków, 2001, pp. 187–200. ; Weeks J., “Discourse, desire and sexual deviance. Some problems in a history of homosexuality”, in: Culture, society and sexuality. A reader, eds. R. Parker and P. Aggleton, London– New York, 2014, pp. 119–142. ; Williams L., “Hard core”. Władza, przyjemność i “szaleństwo widzialności”, transl. J. Burzyńska, I. Hansz, M. Wojtyna, Gdańsk, 2010. ; Zannier I., “L’archeologica, casta fotografia di von Gloeden”, in: Wilhelm von Gloeden. Fotografie. Nudi – paesaggi – scene di genere, a cura di I. Zannier, Firenze 2008, pp. 9–19. ; Žalman J. [A. Novák], Umlčený film, Praha, 2008.


Studia z Dziejów Rosji i Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej




2, Special Issue

Start page:


End page:




Resource Identifier:

oai:rcin.org.pl:64781 ; oai:rcin.org.pl:64781 ; 2353-6403 ; 10.12775/SDR.2017.EN2.04


click here to follow the link



Language of abstract:

eng ; rus


Creative Commons Attribution BY-ND 4.0 license

Terms of use:

Copyright-protected material. [CC BY-ND 4.0] May be used within the scope specified in Creative Commons Attribution BY-ND 4.0 license, full text available at: ; -

Digitizing institution:

Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences

Original in:

Projects co-financed by:

Ministry of Science and Higher Education ; Activities popularizing science (DUN)



Citation style:

This page uses 'cookies'. More information