“Our dear Jiri, the bravest of the brave. Your body left our mundane world in our arms last night,” Olga wrote. “Dearest Jirka, I thank you for each and single day I could spend with you. Each was extraordinary. I am also grateful to you for the last three years, as hard as they were,” she added.
Born on 23 February 1938, Menzel studied film direction in Prague. He graduated to become one of the leading figures of the Czechoslovak New Wave of cinema.
In 1967, Menzel won the best foreign-language film Academy Award for his directorial debut, a Nazi occupation story called ‘Closely Watched Trains’. The film was based on a novel written by Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal. After winning the Oscar, Menzel adapted the novelist’s other books — Cutting it Short and Larks on a String.
Larks on a String depicted the life of people sidelined by the communist regime ruling in then-Czechoslovakia. It was originally supposed to release in 1969. However, the film was banned by the authorities. It returned to the screens only after the 1989 Velvet Revolution.
Menzel earned his second Academy Award nomination in 1986 for the dark comedy ‘My Sweet Little Village’. The multi-talented director was also a theatre director, actor and writer. He was also awarded the French title of Knight of Arts and Letters. He played around 80 roles in film and television. His last acting gig was as the title character in the Czech-Slovak co-production drama directed by Martin Sulik, ‘The Interpreter’.
Menzel had been away from the spotlight since 2017 after he underwent brain surgery and meningitis. He is survived by his wife and two daughters, Anna Karolina and Eva Maria.