The Firemen's Ball (1967)




















Milos Forman's "The Firemen's Ball" is something of comical history. It's been long forgotten by today's immediate access generation, being replaced with faster, lewder, cruder, louder, and flashier pieces. Yet even after the decades of time that it had to survive, "The Firemen's Ball" is still ridiculous, funny, and remarkably poignant.
The setting of the story is preposterous enough, filled with characters who are sensationally ignorant and naive. The film opens with one man looking over a table set with prizes (some statues, dolls, and cakes) for people to bid on. This auction of sorts will take place right in the middle of the ball that the local fire department is throwing as a fund raiser and as a final farewell to their old chief, a man who's dying of cancer but doesn't know it.
As the man peruses the table, he notices that one item is missing, he runs over to another man and instantly blames him, simply for being the closet in proximity. The two men argue and soon the opening titles interrupt their squabbling and when they finish, we are thrown into the middle of the ball.
Irony piles upon incompetence as the night wears on.
The ten or so men who are coordinating this event decide that they want to host an impromptu beauty pageant with some of the girls in the crowd. But they're are chauvinistic and materialistic and (on top of that) unintelligent, so getting girls to agree to the pageant is hard enough. Harder still is finding the girls that everyone agrees should be in the show.
After a ten minutes of searching, they still don't have anything to go on and they scramble to assemble a team of willing girls in order to crown a winner.
Meanwhile, one of the firemen is guarding the table of paraphernalia and finds that items keep disappearing. his frustration grows as do his irritable health symptoms.
"The Firemen's Ball" could be a movie about a couple of firemen who really don't know what they're doing. Or it could be about organizations in general, which is what I think. This movie comes across very satirical, in the right way—possibly offensive, never compromising, and always maniacal.
Milos Forman filmed this movie in his home country of Czechoslovakia and had to flee the following year after the film was prohibited from playing anywhere in the country indefinitely. Though the film saw some success, gaining one Oscar nomination for foreign language film, it wasn't a huge hit and gradually faded from the common mind.
But Forman's later works, in particularly "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", are progressions of the artist that began with films like "The Firemen's Ball".
If it is allegorical, which I think it is, it's hilarious. If not, it's still funny. It works either way. This film could be analyzed for its political connotations and social commentary; or it could just be seen as a fun comedy.
The night goes on and drunken panic sets in everywhere, and I watch in utter amusement. "The Firemen's Ball" does have a significantly heavier ending than beginning; but all-in-all it's really lighthearted.




Score: 3 out of 4 stars

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