Monday, November 05, 2007

The Cremator (Juraj Herz, 1968)

Czech Republic
Made around the time when the Czechs were really eager to misbehave, this grotesque, high-pitched allegory is ostensibly telling the story of a family man who runs a crematorium in the days leading up to Nazi rule. But the subtext relating to what in 1968 was a much more contemporary evil is pungent and throbbing. Director Juraj Herz mixes absurdist, surrealist, gothic and expressionistic flavours with free abandon. It's very grating to begin with, but the surface quirks become much more intriguing as the underscoring menace rises through and a relationship between the two becomes apparent. It's all still much-too-much, but it becomes easy to ignore all the excessive bits in favour of all the arresting bits. It's one of those cases where the experience of a singular, piercing vision renders the many flaws irrelevant.


At 4:04 AM , Blogger Paul Martin said...

Gee this film looked great on the big screen (at Melbourne Cinematheque, recently). Yes, the Czechs really did bite the hand that fed them. The government handed them money to make films, most of which were critical of the communist regime. This one was made just before a big censorship crackdown. Even though the film is anti-Nazi, I think it was still banned, because the director was black-listed. As I wrote about it at the time, it reminds me of the Spanish film, The Executioner. It employs similarly black humour.

At 5:48 PM , Blogger Y Kant Goran Rite said...

I've not seen (or, before now, heard of) The Executioner, but if it's anything like The Cremator, I'm intrigued. Who's it by?

At 9:17 PM , Blogger Paul Martin said...

El verdugo (The Executioner, Luis GarcĂ­a Berlanga, 1963)

Great stuff, check it out (I think I saw it as part of the El Mirada Spanish Festival at ACMI earlier in the year). Did you see The Cremator on DVD or at ACMI?

At 9:54 PM , Blogger Y Kant Goran Rite said...

At ACMI - I doubt I could track it down on DVD


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