I actually took a week off from watching 1001 films. The first break in years (other than holiday breaks of course) because of just where my head has been at. Returning to films, it only made sense for me to pick something a bit lighter like The Firemen’s Ball – a Czech comedy that takes a satirical look at communism set at a firemen’s ball. The fact that I later found out that this ridiculous farce is based on the screenwriters’ attendance at an actual small town fireman’s ball just made an already great film even better.
At just over 1 hour 10 minutes, The Firemen’s Ball wastes no time in setting up and executing a number of narrative threads and in painting the whole community as a bunch of cheats. The corruption in something as inconsequential as a local beauty competition (which ends up in none of the girls actually wanting to do it and them locking themselves in the bathroom) and how a charitable act of giving away a table full of goods to a needy man leads to mass theft – well it had me smiling all the way through.
Knowing that Miloš Forman would go from this and end up creating both Amadeus and One Flew Over Cuckoo’s Nest is extraordinary. Like everyone knows at least one of those two films, but I think that this is just as much essential viewing. It’s not often that you get an Eastern European comedy on this list – but to be honest this would be on the 1001 without that being a defining trait. It strikes an excellent balance between you laughing at the obviously coming punchline then, at others, catching you off guard with something utterly ludicrous.