An excerpt from the booklet essay by Peter Hames

Peter Solan’s early work did not pass without international interest. While he began his career in documentary, which was a kind of obligatory apprenticeship, he made his feature debut in 1956 with The Devil Never Sleeps (Čert nespí), co-directed with František Žáček, based on stories by Peter Karvaš. It was the first of three collaborations with Karvaš that included The Case of Barnabáš Kos (Prípad Barnabáš Kos, 1964) and Seven Witnesses (Sedem svedkov, TV, 1967). Karvaš was a satirical writer and dramatist of considerable importance. The Devil Never Sleeps hit some predictable targets, his play Midnight Mass (Polnočná omša) - filmed by Czech director Jiří Krejčík as a Slovak production in 1962 - attacked the roots of Slovak fascism, and his play The Scar (Jazna, 1963) had attacked the excesses of Stalinism. However, as the accompanying film shows, in its extract from The Devil Never Sleeps, satire was supposed to be ‘constructive’.

The Case of Barnabáš Kos, the story of an inconspicuous musician (a triangle player) who rises above his station to become conductor of an orchestra, demonstrates the ways in which the harmless and ineffectual (and conformist) were frequently raised to positions of authority. He was, according to Karvaš, someone ‘who posed no problems in the numerous committees and boards’ on which he sat. A third collaborator on the screenplay was Albert Marenčin, who had also scripted Song of the Grey Pigeon and whose production group lay behind most of the Slovak ‘New Wave’ films. Its absurdist and Kafkaesque story echoes (and precedes) such Czech titles as Pavel Juráček and Jan Schmidt’s Josef Kilian (Postava k podpírání, 1963), Jan Němec’s The Party and the Guests (O slavnosti a hostech, 1966), and Juráček’s A Case for the Rookie Hangman (Případ pro začínajícího kata, 1969) frequently employing surreal imagery.

Solan’s collaboration with screenwriter Tibor Vichta began with The Boxer and Death (Boxer a smrť, 1962), initially banned and shelved, and The Face at the Window (Tvar v okne, 1963), before moving to Before Tonight is Over (Kým sa skončí táto noc, 1965).


Within the context of Slovak cinema, Solan’s experiment was something totally unusual. It broke with conventional narrative, traditional approaches to visual storytelling, and character motivation. While it emerged at the same time as the early New Wave films of Miloš Forman, it doesn’t replicate his ‘documentary’ style and concern for a ‘working class’ environment. Solan uses actors who are consciously ‘acting’ yet placed in situations in which they are required to respond to unexpected developments and situations. They are not observed with the same detachment as Forman or Loach but their situations also give rise to insecurities and spontaneous reaction. While the nightclub environment is clearly artificial, there are some impressive sequences. Several of the dance and ‘rock ’n’ roll’ sections echo Forman’s Black Peter (Černý Petr, 1963) and A Blonde in Love (Lásky jedné plavovlásky,1965) – and perhaps a more mainstream version of Karel Reisz’s and Tony Richardson’s Momma Don’t Allow (1955).


Peter Hames' complete essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the booklet which accompanies the release.

Disc Info

Czechoslovakia, 1965
Before Tonight is Over:
89 minutes
Special features: 42 mins
Sound: 2.0 Dual Mono LPCM (48k/16-bit)
Black and white
Original aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Language: Slovak, Czech
Subtitles: English

Blu-ray: BD50 / 1080 / 24fps Region ABC (Region Free)

Blu-Ray: £19.99
Release Date: 14 June 2021


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