In this Czech New Wave film, the medieval warrior-monks who break the oath to their crusading order are thrown to the dogs: literally, down a deep well, to starving hounds who rip them to shreds. And yet, Ondrej wants to leave–after all, he joined only because his father threw him against the wall after he brought his new stepmother a wedding present of spring blossoms concealing a heap of dead bats. In other words, just another day in Bohemia.

When Ondrej runs off, his friend Armin, much more serious about the monk’s strict demands, is sent to chase after him and deliver swift punishment. The themes are grand — sin, murder, forgiveness — but the drama isn’t what makes The Valley of the Bees. The film’s sharp, rigorous style develops its own pull; it’s every bit as ascetic as the monks themselves.

Udoli vcel. Frantisek Vlácil, 1967. ***