A grim portrayal of the shift from Paganism to Christianity in medieval Czechoslovakia - as a young virgin promised to God is kidnapped and raped by a marauder who her religious father seeks to kill in return.
Ondrej, a young boy who loves bees and bats, is introduced to his new mother, a woman much younger than his father. He brings her a basketful of flowers which she starts to throw in the air... See full summary »
A poetic film about a dove getting lost on its way to Prague getting shot down by a paralyzed boy. An artist who finds the dove becomes friends with the boy. Together they take care of it bringing it back to recovery.
In the aftermath of World War II, a former Czech soldier takes charge of a manor formerly owned by a German family. He falls in love with the daughter, who is now a maid, and is forced to ... See full summary »
Husband (senior ministry official) and wife find their house is riddled with listening devices put there by his own ministry. A harrowing night follows (reminiscent of 'Who's Afraid Of ... See full summary »
A small group of adult bourgeois friends are on a day outing in the country, that outing which includes having a picnic. While they are going for a walk after the picnic, they encounter a ... See full summary »
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>
This film is the best Czech film of all time according to a 1998 poll of filmmakers and critics from the Czech Republic and Slovakia. See more »
In a scene where Marketa observes a reindeer in the forest, you can see a director Frantisek Vlacil in jacket in the left of the frame. He was actually trying to scare deer, because they didn't want to move. This could be seen only on some of the Blu-Ray and DVD versions. See more »
The UK DVD is cut by 3 secs to remove a shot of a snake being stabbed. See more »
Some of the most rewarding film experiences I know of annotate the medium itself, oftentimes than not so elliptically it's almost impossible to see at first. I don't mean Fellini's "8 ½" (1963) or "F for Fake" (1974) and their ilk; these are explicitly self-referential films, not that there's anything wrong in that. The films I am referring to aren't really self-referentially about film on narrative level, rather about something else entirely; they become film allegories by extension, as if in the periphery, accidentally.
"Marketa Lazarová" (1967), so audaciously otherworldly, is a film like that. I've seen it twice now, and slowly it's starting to reveal its riches. The first time around my expectations misled me to approach it as something closer to Tarkovsky's "Andrei Rublev" (1966), and while there are similarities, the film is so radical it's not that fitting a comparison in my mind.
The backdrop for the film is a profound historical and cultural paradigm shift where Christianity and paganism battle it out. Two opposites, the film can be seen as a poetic exploration of this struggle, and thus as a social document. While interesting, something else speaks to me more. For me the two allegorical forces at play are those of image and sound, and their use in film world, in filmic language. They often go their own ways, images showing us something and the narration swerving to somewhere else altogether, and the complex array of characters and their unorthodox introduction and presentation in the film underline the effect of confusion very powerfully. The overdubbed, echoing dialogue, often out of sync with the image, distracted me on first viewing, but it's unmistakably fitting in the grand scheme of things. Some images are so powerful I can't get them out of my mind (not that I'd want to, mind you!)
And the music! It's the highest compliment I can think of when I say for a film so visually rich that you should not only see it but listen to it. Liska's contribution to the film in some ways contributes to the modest thesis I've been trying to form in so short a space, that is the wonderful interplay of sound and image. Kieslowski's "Trois couleurs: Bleu" (1993) might compare if I wanted to search for something as equally stunning as this.
And I can't write about the film without mentioning the most wonderful sound I've come across in film. It's the convent bell, and one can hear it towards the very beginning, during the revelation and just before the intertitles, I think, and I think it's repeated at least once later on.
All in all, what an experience. We're lucky to have two Blu-rays of the film, the first a Czech Region B, the second a Criterion Region A release. The first one does have English subtitles.
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