Quick recap: A fire department throws a party (or ball, if you will) to honor their outgoing chief. They screw everything up with both hijinks and shenanigans.
Fun (?) fact: The firemen portrayed in the film are not actors, but instead real firemen from the town the movie was filmed in.
My thoughts: I’m just going to jump right in and say that I didn’t find The Firemen’s Ball all that funny. That’s not to say that the movie was devoid of humor, but I don’t think I was the right audience. Set during the Cold War in Czechoslovakia, I can see how people in that country might be falling out of their seat in laughter, but seeing as how I am neither under a Communist regime (shut up, Ted Cruz) or Czechoslovakian, it didn’t interest me very much. For one, it’s a film with very dark humor, which I normally love, but these jokes landed closer on the side of just being mean. One of the main plot points is that the firemen want to organize a beauty pageant so that they might choose a beautiful girl to present the award to their former chief. Many girls don’t want to participate though, and the ones that do are not very attractive. One of the only girls they want shows up during the ball to reveal that she is wearing a bikini, since this is a competition. This leads to a very awkward situation where she is strutting around in basically her underwear while all these old creepy guys leer at her. I see the humor, but I’m not laughing.
After the film was over, I read the entry in my 1001 Movies to See Before you Die book to see if there was something I might have missed. There was. Turns out, the whole film was an allegory about the Communist regime. Knowing this pissed me off because I didn’t get that at all. So not only did I not find the movie all that hilarious, I apparently completely missed the entire point of the film. And then, in reading the Wikipedia entry, I read that the director didn’t mean for the movie to say anything about Communism. People couldn’t help but assign meaning. What the movie represents is a corrupt society with a corrupt leadership. That could literally be anywhere. It just so happens that the movie was filmed in a country with Communism so that’s what people saw, but corruption is at all levels,my friend.
I feel like knowing what the director thought gives me permission to assign my own meaning and in doing so, I can see the humor more than I did before. Throughout the film, items from the raffle keep getting stolen and it’s even revealed at some point that one of the firemen’s wives is in on it. One of the firemen asks the crowd to return the items and the lights would be turned off so that no one would be embarrassed. While the lights are off, the rest of the items get stolen. At the end of the film, after everyone has gone and the party essentially ruined, the men unceremoniously give the chief their present which, when he opens the box- has also been stolen. Take whatever lesson you want to in that scene, but it made me chuckle because you know, sometimes the drapes are just blue.
Final review: 3/5
Up next: She Done Him Wrong