Customer Review

31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding Czech Cinema, 9 Jan 2008
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This review is from: Marketa LazarovŠ [1967] [DVD] (DVD)
Set in 13th century, a small group of characters are caught up in the violent feud between two neighbouring clans, two rival warlords. A young woman, Marketa, negotiates the morality of this brutal yet sensual medieval world.
Apparently Marketa Lazarova is generally agreed to be the best ever Czech film - in Czechoslovakia that is. Outside Czechoslovakia both film & director fell into neglect. To be honest I hadn't heard of this film until recently. Indeed to non-Czechs it is a perplexing film - it purports to be an "authentic" depiction of the middle ages but is not based on authentic folk tales but on an experimental modernist novel from 1930s, and the film itself was not really part of Czech new wave and yet is an extreme example of 1960s European art house style: strange camera angles, elaborate tracking shots, freeze frames, rapid cut editing etc. The narrative is very fragmented, more or less a series of random episodes containing scenes which move back & forth in time. The director was a disciple of Eisenstein & the "poetic" montage of both image and sound is incredibly complex. I had difficulty following the film and at nearly 3 hours it sometimes got a bit wearying on first viewing - I couldn't help but think I should be watching it on a really big screen in a cinema.
Nonetheless, the film does undoubtedly have an impact even on DVD - films like this simply aren't made anymore - & I've ended up watching it several times already. The cinematography is unbelievable & there are numerous extraordinary scenes - the various scenes with wolves are particularly memorable. I suppose the film belongs to that "middle ages genre" popularised by Bergman (Seventh Seal, Virgin Spring) and the Japanese (Rashomon, Sansho), but the most useful comparison I could make to anyone reading this would be with Andrei Rubliev - if you liked Tarkovsky's film you really ought to see this.
Yet another revelatory East European classic from Second Run DVD. Informative essay by Peter Hames included in booklet.
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