Monday, 20 December 2010

Drifting Clouds Recommendation: "The Cremator"

This week, I'm delighted to recommend a lost masterpiece from the Czech New Wave, courtesy of the Second Run DVD label, The Cremator by Juraj Herz. It's a strange and beautiful film, and if you like your comedy dark and your angles Wellesian, then this is the film for you. Also, check out the central performance by Rudolf Hrušínský, surely one of the most remarkable in all cinema. Below is a short write up from the Channel 4 film guide.

The Cremator
Director - Juraj Herz
Czech Republic / 1968
Main Feature: 95 minutes
Certificate: 15
Black & White

Channel 4 Film Guide

An enjoyably strange, undoubtedly original and occasionally terrifying film (9 1/2 out of 10)

On one level The Cremator can be enjoyed simply as something truly strange and different. Although it is live action, the film has much of the oddness and Gothic trappings of Czech animation. Director Juraj Herz actually studied puppetry rather than film, and is a friend of the Czech surrealist filmmaker Jan Svankmajer. This is a film full of strange angles and odd ways of looking at the world. At its heart is Karl Kopfrkingl (Rudolf Hrušínský) the cremator of the title. Though he loves his job dearly, his strangeness is emphasised in one of the film's key early passages, a trip to a fair during which he s perked up by a visit to an exhibition of gruesome waxworks.

But while you might expect a film this eccentric to be otherworldly, The Cremator is actually grounded in politics. In what isn't a terribly surprising twist given the late 30s setting, Kopfrkingl's interest in the purifying power of the oven chimes in with the rise of Nazism. But the clunky premise - that there is a fine line between rigid middle class conservatism and being a fascist - is less important than the extraordinary atmosphere the film creates, and Hrušínský's portrayal of the increasingly deranged Kopfrkingl.

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