Kopfrkingl enjoys his job at a crematorium in Czechoslovakia in the late 1930s. He likes reading the Tibetan book of the dead, and espouses the view that cremation relieves earthly ... See full summary »
A wounded criminal and his dying partner take refuge at a beachfront castle. The owners of the castle, a meek Englishman and his willful French wife, are initially the unwilling hosts to ... See full summary »
A young woman's quest for revenge against the people who kidnapped and tormented her as a child leads her and a friend, who is also a victim of child abuse, on a terrifying journey into a living hell of depravity.
Kopfrkingl enjoys his job at a crematorium in Czechoslovakia in the late 1930s. He likes reading the Tibetan book of the dead, and espouses the view that cremation relieves earthly suffering. At a reception, he meets Reineke, with whom he fought for Austria in the first World War. Reineke convinces Kopfrkingl to emphasize his supposedly German heritage, including sending his timid son to the German school. Reineke then suggests that Kopfrkingl's half-Jewish wife is holding back his advancement in his job. Written by
Who Knew Czech Cinema Had Such Offerings? A Pure Win!
"The Cremator" is Karel Kopfrkingl, played beautifully by Rudolf Hrusinsky, a man who fought for Germany in the Great War (World War I) and is now a crematorium operator in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s. His friend, a member of the Nazi party, tries to steer him towards fighting for Germany again, but will Karel give up his comfortable life and semi-Jewish family?
I wasn't sure what I was getting into with this one. When I found out that Dark Sky was releasing it, I instantly found myself interested. And despite having no knowledge of Czech horror or Czech cinema in general, Dark Sky did not disappoint. "The Cremator" truly is a forgotten classic. Who knew that as early as 1968 that Czechoslovakia was releasing films that were well-scripted, well-acted and most interestingly... extremely well-shot with quality footage (decades ahead of Italian cinema).
Actor Rudolf Hrusinsky and director Juraj Herz are a perfect combination when combining black comedy, morbidity, and what the box describes as "surrealism" and "expressionism". The surrealism is evident: the first ten minutes contain many camera shots that warp our sense of safety and familiarity, calling to mind for me "The Holy Mountain". I can't think of another film that is even close to these two in this regard.
The pace is steady, with Karel's descent a gradual, but well-paced journey for the viewer. Can a "sensitive" man be transformed into a Jew-hating, violence-loving monster who can turn away from his family? I won't say how far he goes, but some key scenes involve a carnival's haunted wax museum and the unusual execution of some cats. And that's just the beginning.
Of course, those who don't like black and white films or subtitles are going to be scared away. You are missing out, my friends. "The Cremator" is visually stunning and grips you with a dead, icy hand that cannot be denied. 2009 has had a handful of good films released, but most are stinkers. "Cremator" is no stinker... this film has been embalmed perfectly and is as fresh today -- if not more fresh -- than it was on the day it was filmed. Do not rent a copy -- buy one!
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