Reverie of Man of Action
George Trnka born on February 24, 1912 died on December 30, 1969
Whenever we start remembering Trnka, a worldwide well-known puppet film director, an irresistible compulsion pops at once up to uncork a bottle of white wine!" This is a quotation of Jan Werich, a wellknown histrionic performer, dramaturgist, dramatist and theater manager, who was his personal friend and a close neighbor. They both lived in Prague�s Lesser Town Quarter downtown part of a snug and "mysterious " court of Grand Prior mill, called "Certovka ", i.e." Devil�s mischief milling area". The latter is historically known by a its millrace whose water stream force was applied for turning of big wooden paddle wheels relevant to the group of buildings with machinery for grinding grain into flour or meal. It was quite current knowledge that Trnka always drank white wine whenever he went to visit his favorite musicians, i.e. the gypies. Every Friday, it was his custom to first put on his neck-tie and then he departed for a wine-cellar where the gypsy band was playing. At all times, as soon as he entered the hall of the tavern, the first violinist of the people�s band immediately stopped .whatever the whole band was just playing, and everybody lined up for a reknowned Rakoczi�s march. As this one was Trnka� s composition held in special regard, it resounded in its full swing as a welcome token.
Trnka very often traveled to various places in the world where a display of his films was being showed.. Moreover, he was a frequent visitor of many festivals abroad, and also acted in many festivals as a member of an international jury. Because of his unquestioned fame, he was welcomed everywhere with open arms, and they were willing to bring down blue sky in order to please him. However, he was not much enthused by all that hullaballoo. On the contrary, he mostly preferred to be at his home quarters. But, of course, on Fridays, he stayed again with his gypsies. At least once a week, he hankered after a society gathering, after some entertainment, or some agreeable music. These longings were a much needed diversity due to his difficult current routine craftmenship. After all, he would prefer rather to stay compfy at his home than to enjoy life as an artist in an unconventional, nonconforming way. Indeed, this was just the reason why he was not enthusiatic to be involved in discussions or all kinds of interviews. As a matter of fact, it was a very difficult task for his interviewers to pose him such enticing questions which would result in his slip of tongue or his disclosure of something from his private life. In this respect, even the foreign correspodents and interviewers were not successful in acquiring interesting information about him that would satisfy their readers and give them any insight about his life.. In order to give you some idea about the Trnka�s answers to his interviewers, hereunder is a small sampling:
Q. 1: Are you interested in sports?
A: A little bit.
Q. 2: Do you understand sports?
A: A little bit.
Q. 3: Do you earn a lot of money by your art?
A: A little bit
Consequently, it would have been more reliable or preferable to invent some kind of interview with Trnka.
As for his frequent travels either at home or abroad, he disliked talking about them. In fact, he did not like to stay in hotels, as the only thing you can do there is to spend a night by sleeping. Actually, he was a human being who was immoderately hardworking. In his house, all the things on his working table were always well organized, and ready for his lobor. His neighlor Jan Werich knew this very well, because they visited each other very often, and time and again he was spreading in an arch manner, various merry-making telltales, like this: In his home studio, Trnka was sitting on his step-ladder in front of a gigantic glasssheet. In either hand, he held a stick on the end of which was fastened a brush. On the floor, you could find a lot of pails with paints of different hues. If so desired, he was able to draw as well as paint with both hands simultaneously, just like a pianist uses both hands when playing the piano. Each hand drew or painted something different !!! Well, he was really a genius..
As for the painter�s physical figure, he moved very swiftly and pliantly, although to some, it might seemed to have been rather slow. His long hair and twisted upperlip mustachios gave you the impression of typically Slavic features. Indeed, he reminded the well-known Czech historical or rather legendary patriotic statue of Premysl Orac, i.e. Premysl Ploughman.
Whenever Trnka went to any place, it was instantly obvious that a real master of his craftmanship was there. Nazim Hikmet once said that he knew only two poets of the film artistry, i.e. Charlie Chaplin and the Czechoslovak master George Trnka! The latter did not speak any foreign language and even in Czech, he spoke very little. Even his puppets did not speak! But although they were dumb, we recognized reliably that their mother languge was Czech! Take for instance "Small Wooden Block" by Mikolas Ales, "Old Czech Legends" by Alois Jirasek or "Fates of the Soldier Schweik " by Karel Hasek. All these famous artistic and literary works were set by Trnka into films, which had colossal success on the international scene. And yet, they find their origin in the national Czech roots. Their authors and Trnka knew perfectly well where all the masterpieces were coming from. They have retained for ever their Czech values.
Jan Werich was very proud that his friend Trnka was living in the same quarters. In fact, he even boasted about it to his friends. They both loved this area located in fairy tale surroundings of Kampa with houses, situated close to Vltava river bank. It even created a kind of an illusion that they were both living on a sort of half-isle, where there was a very quiet evironment, and where all those people living there loved each other truly.
He remembered very gladly and frequently all these realities in his book "Time Does Not Return", which he dedicated in token of his appreciation to a distinguished human being as well as personal friend, caricaturist and writer, Adolf Hoffmeister.Květa Síglová Translated by Charles J. Opatrny
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