Mikolás and his brother Adam rob travelers for their tyrannical father Kozlík. During one of their "jobs" they end up with a young German hostage whose father escapes to return news of the kidnapping and robbery to the King. Kozlik prepares for the wrath of the King, and sends Mikolás to pressure his neighbor Lazar to join him in war. Persuasion fails, and in vengeance Mikolás abducts Lazar's daughter Marketa, just as she was about to join a convent. The King, meantime, dispatches an army and the religious Lazar will be called upon to join hands against Kozlik. Stripped-down, surreal, and relentlessly grimy account of the shift from Paganism to Christianity. Written by
Joyojeet Pal <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Near Impossible to follow, but stunning nevertheless...
I bought the Second Run DVD, after reading about how this epic was considered the best Czech film, ever.
To be honest, not many other contenders spring to mind. And, who voted? As it was on special offer and I am a sucker indeed for that Russian style of gritty monochrome composition and beauty, how could I resist?
I'm on its second play and I'm no nearer following the story. There is undoubtedly one. Am I too overawed by imagery that I could only dream of? (even if I were able to!) Is it the savagery and feel of a certain reality?
I don't know. I can sense, however, an art film made with passion and unbounded imagination. Of folklore, both in a historical sense and a cultural one and of religious rebellion. Like Kurosawa at his best, an immediacy and connection. Yet, it is also dreamlike and distant, with an air of mysticism that I found increasingly confusing. The length of film means that by halfway through I've no idea what is going on, but am still enjoying what I see.
Unfortunately, I have docked a mark for the forced, electronically induced echo on the dialogue that probably is supposed to denote that other worldly strangeness. It seems to seep in and hang about, its constant use here cheapens the effect to being a bit of a pain. Whereas Kurosawa used that SFX so effectively on, say Roshomon, by using just once or twice.
I could see elements of the Brazilian 'Black God, White Devil' and like others have commented, Kurosawa's 'Seven Samurai' and Tarkov's 'Andrei Rublev'. Maybe some of the black magic in Bergman's late medieval classics, such as 'The Virgin Spring' and 'The Seventh Seal'. But more psychotic, more manic and disturbing than all these put together. Like madness itself, there is a real beauty deeply ingrained amongst the mayhem.
My conclusion would have to be that if you get the chance, go for it. Take it with a large pinch of salt and sprinkle sparingly. None of it is truly horrific or unpalatable to most adults and don't worry if you don't "get it". Be slightly proud and immodest that you've found a tarnished gem that hardly anyone else will have seen or are ever likely to.
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