This movie about a Czech widow escorting two soldiers of the Reich on a coach to Vienna as she plots her revenge is a bright example of the breach with visual narrative I value in the best of New Wave films, of the peeling back of established rules to reveal new ways of making cinema, the disassociation of the common rules of stagebound studio filmmaking, the possibilities of discovery created by a curious roaming camera.
If you're inclined to read the enormity of nature, deserts or forests, as existential playgrounds, the movie will give you ample opportunity. Karel Kachyna plays out a nightmare poem of innocence plucked from the stem, of lives torn asunder by guilt and desperation, and with the progression of this journey through a sunless forest that never seems to end he sketches in clear pencil strokes how the madness of war creates moral conundrums punishing for the soul.
I come to this mostly for the pleasure of a freewheeling cinema, but the viewer who values the faith restoring pathos of classicist cinema, Dick's change of heart in Casablanca, will be graced with a soaring finale. How much the finale will resonate with the viewer, or crush him, boils down to that. Me, I view this mode as more a reflection of a storytelling demand for catharsis than a reflection of a true world, an affirmation of the expected rather than a breach with it, so in the context of this films I'm left a little indifferent to it.
A fascinating small touch for me, is when the soldier hears bells ringing from afar and leaps for joy, confident the bloodshed has finally ended. But is that so, the film never lets out.
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