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Through a variety of film styles that provide a surrealistic sensory overload, Slovak director Juraj Jakubisko provides three war stories that treat the fragility of the humankind through different approaches, with Death as a common denominator appearing in all stories. In the first chapter (WWI), a gypsy deserts the army to return to his town for a wedding. To protect himself, he dresses up as a woman. However, the Hussars spot him, unleashing violent confrontations in the village. In the second chapter (WWII), Russian partisans kill an old man suspected of being a German spy. The news that the war is over scatters. Celebrations begin. But a German unit is unaware of this, and stumbles upon the celebration. In the third chapter (Post-Apocalyptic Nuclear Holocaust), two survivors begin an extensive search for other remaining people, but Death seeks them out too.Written by
A haunting war film, which fills the mind with wonder and horror.
Juraj Jakubisko's "The Deserter and the Nomads" is a film that is almost impossible to find. The only copy I was able to track down had Italian subtitles. So, I had to figure out what was happening. I must say, the visuals had me in awe. Some of the costumes of the film feel otherworldly. Czech and Slovak folk dresses, men with feather hats and other assorted nomadic peasant fashions. The film is divided into three parts; World War I, World War II and a post apocalyptic waste land in the future. All three parts of the film contain the character of death, who is a tall bald man with a frightening appearance. In the first story, a soldier deserts the army and causes havoc in his town. Death soon follows. The second part deals with World War II and contains a massacre of a peasant family by Russian soldiers. Even children fall victim. The scene was sad and haunting. Death follows in the second part, even to make sure that the cat's dead. Then we witness a collage of bloody and bizarre images, war stock footage and a vision of the future. Jakubisko's vision of the future in the third part, is disturbing and horrifying. He combines elements of biblical prophecy, sci-fi and folk tales in his bleak future. The images of nude old people running around in a underground insane asylum bomb shelter, filtered with sepia tones; may be a bit much for some viewers. It almost reaches the weirdness of a Jodorowsky film. Then we see death talking to a nurse. An old man spits up blood and other strange things occur. Death and the girl, escape through a rat infested sewer. When they finally see light, it's a post war wasteland without any people. There's cracked parched land and planes that drop bombs even on the forest. You know things are bad when death starts to fear for his life. Ironically when Jakubisko was filming, the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia. Although the film did well in festivals, it was later confiscated, and held in a vault for about twenty years. Columbia pictures bought the rights to it in the late sixties, and since then the film has faded into oblivion. Jakubisko had to buy a print from Columbia pictures, just so he could have a copy. For how old this film is, the violence is savage and brutal like Sam Peckinpah's the "Wild Bunch", Jodorowsky's "El Topo" and almost sometimes as disturbing as Arrabal's "Viva la Muerte". It's virtually impossible to describe the film.Think of directors Segei Paradjanov, Milos Jancso, Emir Kusterica, Fellini, Peter Greenaway, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Fernando Arrabal to get an idea of it's style. It's not my favorite film from this director, but I must say it's haunted me for months. The musical score is sad and emotional. I love the song on the record player towards the end of the film. I wish I could find the music for the film and I hope for a DVD release. For similar eastern European post apocalyptic craziness, check out Darko Mitrevski's "Goodbye 20th Century.
PS. Since reviewing this film 5 years ago, I finally found a good print. Check various torrent sites for an amazing TV rip from Czech television. Plus there's English SRT subtitles available on online. I haven't yet figured out how to add them. Also little did I know, the man behind the haunting film score is Stepán Konícek, the conductor who helped out with such films as "City of Lost Children", and both David Lynch's "Lost Highway" and "Muholland Drive".
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