Re: [Slovak-World] The Shop on Main Street
- Here something from the Czech history.....
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, November 20, 2006 1:49 AM
Subject: [Slovak-World] The Shop on Main Street
Well, I followed through on the recommendation to check out the
library for "Shop on Main Street" and discovered that they not only
had this movie in both CD and tape, but a great collection of other
films as well. So I have a whole lot of Czechoslovak, Polish,
Ukrainian and Russian films to check out if I wish to get to know
our European neighborhood better.
Starting with Shop on Main Street being a work of fiction and never
forgetting that it reflects Slovak life as accurately as Hollywood
movies reflect American life .
There is a lot to reflect Slovak life during the war years. The
movie is worth watching twice, once to concentrate on the
development of the story and characters, and a second time to
observe all of the background details. There are the wooden carts
(or wagons) to be seen, from the small cart the hero uses - quite
like the dog carts of "Ceske Budejovice" Erskine Caldwell writes up
in `North of the Danube' - to the wooden wheeled horse drawn carts
on the street. I was surprised by the appearance of one of the more
modern rubber wheeled carts as well that we see today. I never
thought they were developed so early, but of course, why not?
Looking for potential propaganda in the presentation, I fully expect
the communist régime in power in 1965 to paint the fascists in as
black a light as possible. Perhaps this is where they chose to
emphasize fascist depravity by adding the scene where the brother in
law fondles his sister in law while in the same room with her
husband and his own wife. this goes well beyond the blatant racism
and greed that carries the main theme of the movie, and is perhaps
added to emphasize the moral bankruptcy of fascism.
I looked up five or six film reviews on the internet after watching
the video, and found almost all of the reviewers expressed a fair to
extreme ignorance of the society represented in the film. The
reviews did add fresh perspectives, but only alongside factual and
cultural errors. One reviewer places the town "under nazi
occupation" which was not so. The symbols and terminology in the
film were specifically "Guardist" - the Hlinka Guardists, the
fascist semi-military arm of the clerico-faschist Tiso government.
Slovakia was not occupied at the time. Another reviewer speculated
about the possibility of the fascists (or Nazis as he calls them)
forcing the people to parade and look happy. He evidently is not
familiar with the European tradition of the Promenade, where the
town puts on their Sunday best and strolls the town to see and to be
seen and to greet friends and neighbors. The Promenade was also a
chance for young men and women to check out the eligible partners.
We should be prepared for people trying to live normal lives even
during wartime, as we are trying to live normally today in America,
despite our wartime status. Some scenes presumably reflect a
normal, everyday life, from washing after work and interior
furnishings of the homes to dealing at the market place, the kroy
worn by the women in the street to behavior of the buyers in the
button shop. The worries of earning a living and surviving do not
go away in time of crisis, nor does the desire to make a better life.
There is also the delicate matter of placing the timing in
historical context. In 1942 the `final solution' was newly
formulated and still unknown around Europe and even in Jewish
communities. So it is easy to accept that the Jewish and Slovak
communities were fooled into believing the stories of `resettlement'
after processing through a concentration camp (as distinct from
extermination camp, a much newer and perfidious idea). The hopes
for a `mild' pogrom and habits of good citizenship would account for
Jewish compliance, even under suspicious circumstances. The Jewish
resignation to resettlement can more easily be understood in this
context, and the recognition that came later has led to the pro-
active, preventative attitude we observe in Jewish actions in the
The story turns toward a very dark ending after leading us through a
heavy conflict of idealism vs. self preservation. Finally, while
some American reviewers questioned the fantasy ending, I find it a
variation on a strong tendency in Czech films toward such scenes and
departures from realities. I take it as an escape mechanism from
the overall very black ending, a mechanism for handling an ending
that Hollywood would avoid at all costs.
I haven't reviewed the earlier postings on this film, but would be
interested in other perspectives, particularly from native Slovaks
and Slovaks who may have stories of these times passed down from
their parents. This is a work of fiction, but it does present our
peoples and one view of their behavior during a particularly trying
time. Too little of our history and culture is made available, and
if reconstructing the button shop and a part of that era serves as a
tool for telling our Slovak story as well as the story of the Jewish
tragedy of that time, then we will all benefit from this opportunity
to open a small window on history.
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