Elective Affinities

The oft-borrowed title is here a pun, since this documentary looks behind the scenes during the stormy Czech election of March 1968, when Antonin Novotny resigned as president and other politicians jockeyed to keep themselves, and the Prague Spring they had engineered, in place. The cinematography by Jozef Ort-Snep is intimate, intrusive, ironic; there's nary a talking head in the picture. Rather, images of nervous hands and half-shut eyes, of bottles in a meeting hall and bottoms firmly planted in their chairs, immovable, accompany the conversations. The talk is fascinating, an exposé of process and passion, optimism and its opposite, the shadow of doubt. Among the politicians in the film are Novotny, Alexander Dubček, and General Ludvik Svoboda, whose election as president marks the end of the film and so much else.

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