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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
Czechoslovakia's official submission to 42nd Academy Award's Foreign Language in 1970. See more »
My sweet. This is the blessed spot where we met 17 years ago. Only the leopard is new. Kind nature long ago relieved the other of his shackles. You see, dear, I keep talking of nature's benevolence, of merciful fate, of the kindness of God. We judge and criticize others, rebuke them. But what about ourselves? I always have the feeling that I do so little for you.
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The Cremator (Spalovac Mrtvol) is a 1969 Czech film directed by Juraj Herz, a lesser-known member of the brilliantly curious, fresh and vibrant Czechoslovakian New Wave that arose around the early sixties and ended at the dawn of the seventies. In a decade, several films of significant artistic caliber were released: The Cremator is possibly one of the most enchanting examples.
The story at first revolves around a Czech cremator named Karel Kopfrkingl who lives in Prague pre-War World II; we see the way he behaves with his wife and kids, his various philosophies ( doesn't drink or smoke is an insisted fact), his constant talking, that makes him almost look like he speaks to himself, his encounters and places he goes. He then meets a German friend who is deeply fond of Hitler: this friend slowly is able to convince the cremator that he himself is of German blood and should contribute to the movement. The cremator's obsessions become more and more evident, until he acts as if he were completely possessed by the desire of being accepted by the party's ideals.
What makes this film strikingly unique is not only the abnormal plot but the original direction Herz operates: intense and fast close-ups, great amount of still photos, strange camera angles, and an extremely claustrophobic use of space, because of the camera's insistence on details. It is Herz himself that makes the film almost an Avant-Garde piece of art, a little inaccessible to a normal audience but filled of a great enigmatic nature that would shake any film lover. The lead actor, Rudolf Hrusinsky, also makes a great impact and gives an extra push to the film's quality: he keeps a contained, smiling and talkative persona, yet his aura spreads creepiness in each scene, without losing any of his odd elegance.
Saying that this is a film about Nazism is one of the greatest misinterpretations one can give to the Cremator: Its one of those films that centers around one sole figure, and the world as a consequence circles around him as if it were discouraged, intimidated by such a person's presence. Almost all of the characters seem to be victims of awkwardness, extremely contained and nervous looking and not showing any of their true sentiments or thoughts. The unjust charisma of the cremator seems to drive the entire film. It's in the last part of the movie when it becomes clear that there is a reverberating theme of schizophrenia and major delusion throughout the entire film, as well as the concept of how easy a person can be influenced by another person or even by an idea.
The Cremator is easily the most successful psychological film coming out of Czechoslovakia, unfortunately, it still remains unwatched by many people and unknown to many film-lovers. But its extremely original and darkly bizarre lyricism is guaranteed to be an eye magnet to anyone who lies his eyes on it for even a second.
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