An adventurous story about the famous alchemist Wilhelm Storitz. He dislikes the idea of the marriage of Marc and the local beauty Mira and so he uses his ability of being invisible to ...
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An adventurous story about the famous alchemist Wilhelm Storitz. He dislikes the idea of the marriage of Marc and the local beauty Mira and so he uses his ability of being invisible to stand in the way of their wedding. Written by
A Modern Screen Version of Jules Verne's Novel of Invisibility
Jules Verne's posthumously published novel, Le Secret de Wilhelm Storitz, his response to H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man, has been adapted twice to film. Claude Santelli developed a deeply romanticized interpretation of Le Secret de Wilhelm Storitz in adapting and producing a 1967 telefilm version. Director Eric Le Hung's pacing also evades the thriller style in favor of a somber, melancholy unfolding of two frustrated loves. Through the emphasis on the power of images, whether through optics, painting, or invisibility, the broad outlines of the Verne novel are used but with fresh nuances. LE SECRET DE WILHELM STORITZ was Franco-Czechoslovakian television production, made with a Czech crew, was the first of its kind, filmed at the height of the brief Czech new wave.
The 1992 version was, in many ways, the opposite of the 1967 film, emphasizing horror over romance, although also made in the same region. Yet it was also more faithful to the original novel, with its emphasis on science and mystery, restoring the malevolence of Storitz. Only in the 1992 version's generic confines, such as losing the visual poetry of the 1967 film's wedding scene, does the remake suffer. The 85 minute Slovakian television film, TAJOMSTVO ALCHYMISTU STORITZA / THE SECRET OF THE ALCHEMIST STORITZ, was produced with great care and production values and skillfully directed to elicit chills by Pavel Trazaska and written by Tibor Vichta (released in Germany as DAS GEHEIMNIS DES ALCHIMISTEN STORITZ). The plot not only closely follows Verne (until after the denouement), but the details of many of the scenes are directly from the book, such as the disruption of the marriage contract and the police exploration of Storitz's home. Unlike the 1967 versions, the names are retained as well as all the principal Verne characters. However, Stepark (Marián Labuda) and Haralan (Marián Zednikovic) both become rather comical and foolish, Haralan the type of man who fires his gun indoors to celebrate the birth of his nephew. Also providing some humor is the only character added, a teen-age altar boy who is suspected of drinking but in fact is one of the first to realize that Storitz is invisible.
Imposing Henri Vidal (Vladimír Kratina) travels by steamer, where he meets the surly Wilhelm Storitz (Henryk Talar). As in the novel, suspense gradually builds in increments, with the audience quickly realize more than do the characters. A series of strange events, turning to devilish pranks and pure evil, arise out of the vague feeling that someone is standing where no one appears to be, with characters feeling they are being watched. Henri, and others who have encountered the ugly, ill-kept, middle aged Storitz, find his memory disrupting their thoughts and filling their mind with frightening images. When Storitz's actions take place while he is invisible, the film inserts the characters's terrifying subjective images of what they imagine he must look like, with his chilling laugh heard on the soundtrack. (However, these sudden switches to subjective interior views can be confusing, such as the flash of Storitz at the wedding when in fact he is not seen there.) As in the 1967 film, the adaptation of the story to a visual medium, where Storitz is seen and not seen, palpably changes the nature of the story, particularly when he is made up as such a repulsive individual to look at (as opposed to his handsome visage in the 1967 version).
The setting is shifted from the 18th century setting that Michel Verne gave to his revised version of the novel to the 19th century time that Jules Verne had originally used. When Storitz cuts his finger in the garden, it bleeds blood that is blue rather than red in color, to his distress. The most effective scene occurs when Stepark and Henri observe Hermann serving dinner to Storitz, with both sharing the meal while invisible. Another productive change is shifting Storitz's underground laboratory under his father's tomb, accessible via the headstone, so that he does seem to arise from it as the living dead, as the townspeople had feared. When Storitz grabs Haralan's sword, the aggrieved brother immediately pulls out his pistol and fires reflexively into the spot where Storitz ought to be, a lucky shot that kills him, as he becomes visible. Doors to the laboratory mysteriously open until an upturned bottles reveals Hermann coming back to visibility. Stepark destroys the potion and begins to smash the rest of the lab before Henri can stop him, and before it has been discovered that Storitz had made Myra invisible.
Leaving Ragz for the birth of the child of Marc (Michal Gurcík) and Myra (Gabriela Skrabáková), Henri again senses an unseen presence on the ship. Throughout the film, images are interspersed shots of a driverless coach and an unseen hand slashing (in stop motion) the portrait of Myra to ribbons, while in other shots the portrait remains whole. Clearly this film, as a 1992 production, was indebted to the current wave of "slasher" horror films, themselves violent expressions of rape fantasies, and a less refined expression of the same menace Storitz provided in the novel. The laughter, music, and slashing of the painting becomes a motif standing in for Storitz's violent emotions, despite his frequent invisibility. In the last shot, Storitz's laugh is heard once more. Is he still alive? The film seems to offer that possibility; during a funeral procession carrying his corpse, his arm had fallen to the side suspiciously. TAJOMSTVO ALCHYMISTU STORITZA poses the question of whether he could have known more than the secret of invisibility. Or could he have shared his secret with a third party beside Hermann? Perhaps more likely is that Otto Storitz, the father, is not dead--his portrait is shown, so it would be most likely he who would destroy another portrait, a duality already present in the novel. Ultimately, no resolution is offered in the film; Storitz is dead, yet his invisible spirit abides.
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