Pacific Cinematheque, July/August 1991

The first Slovak film to receive international acclaim, Jakubisko’s debut feature was intended as a demonstration that life is compounded of “love, craziness, and death” — and that traditional Czech-Slovak antagonisms are not shared by members of the younger generation. The Crucial Years — the title translates literally as “the years of Christ,” and refers to the time between youth and full adulthood — follows two Slovak brothers living in Prague. One is an artist, the other a pilot; both are trying to assess their attainments and stature so far in life. The pilot, although married with a small son, finds himself attracted to a female friend of his brother’s… Jakubisko drew attention for his ebullient direction, for a vision of lifee verging on the fantastic, and for the unusual step of casting a Czech who spoke bad Slovak as one of the principals; for some, the work heralded the emergence of a specifically Slovak film style. The Crucial Years was banned after the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. “The casualness and disorder, the satirical edge, the emphasis on the individual are entirely ‘modem’ and, in fact, Godardesque; the more surprising since this is an early example of the Czech film renaissance and represents a total break with the ossified heroics of Stalinist cinema.” — Amos Vogel, Film as a Subversive Art

Amos Vogel

The first renowned Slovak film, Jakubisko’s sexy and savvy debut feature set out to demonstrate that traditional Czech-Slovak antagonisms were not shared by members of that country’s younger generation. THE CRUCIAL YEARS (the title translates literally as “the years of Christ,” and refers to the time between youth and full adulthood) follows two Slovak brothers living in Prague. One is an artist, the other a pilot; both are trying to assess their progress in life. The pilot, married and the father of a young son, finds himself attracted to another woman, his brother’s friend. Banned after the 1968 Soviet invasion, THE CRUCIAL YEARS is remarkable for its ebullient direction and for an idiosyncratic vision of life that borders on the fantastic. The film also distinguished itself for casting a Czech who speaks Slovak poorly as one of its principle actors. “The casualness and disorder, the satirical edge, the emphasis on the individual are entirely ‘modern’ and, in fact, Godardesque… [THE CRUCIAL YEARS] represents a total break with the ossified heroics of Stalinist cinema”.