We Have the Year of Kubal

It is twenty years since the legend of Slovak animation, Viktor Kubal, passed away. The Slovak Film Institute has issued a calendar for 2017 dedicated to Kubal’s works and it is also preparing a 3-part Blu-ray collection with his animated films – including two full-length films (Brigand Jurko/Zbojník Jurko and The Bloody Lady/Krvavá pani). 

Kubal (1923 – 1997) is one of the most prominent personalities of national cinematography. He became the founder of Slovak animated film with his The Well of Love (Studňa lásky) released in 1944 and, even though he had to suspend his film career for the following twenty years, his experience as an illustrator and caricaturist rendered it possible for him to return to film in the 1960s with an admirable series of animated black-outs for the cinema journal (Mr. Homo/Pán Homo). Here he demonstrated his feeling for a humorous even satirical perception of social phenomena which marked the whole of his subsequent animated production. In Earth (Zem) he expresses critical views of environmental issues. He mocks human stupidity (Selection/ Selekcia), careerism (The Ladder/ Rebrík), corruption (The Present/Prezent), red tape (High Noon/ Na pravé poludnie), nepotism (The Only Child/Jedináčik), the unhealthy business environment (Cinema/ Kino) and many other suspect phenomena in human relations. This is where he applies the temperament of an experienced caricaturist, the precise structure of the story and burlesque animation game. In Chess (Šach) and Idol (Idol) he touches upon the fundamental questions of human existence in an unfree, totalitarian society.

A substantial portion of Kubal’s filmography consists of fairy-tales for children, solo stories and series of stories with little heroes (Peter/Peter, Puf and Muf/Puf a Muf, Valibuk/Valibuk, Dita/Dita) beloved by several generations of children. Two full-length animated films based on historical stories represent the pinnacle of his oeuvre: Brigand Jurko (1976) with the legendary folk hero – brigand Jánošík as the main protagonist, and The Bloody Lady (1980) about Countess Báthory who allegedly bathed in the blood of young girls. Both works attracted interest with their unique parodic content and satirical flogging. Viktor Kubal excelled with an incredible breadth of interests – from working for newspapers and writing books, from performing in cabarets and talk-shows to acting in films. And he wrote, directed and animated all the more than two hundred films that he made. World cinema has known very few such universally talented filmmakers.

His works contain elements of comedy and tragedy, irony and good-hearted humour, buffoonery and fairy-tales. Master Kubal purveyed all this in spades – i.e. with the whole of his multi-faceted talent.

Rudolf Urc
Archive of the Slovak Film Institute