|Magda Vášáryová plays Marketa in Marketa Lazarova.|
Marketa Lazarová (1967)
d. František Vlácil
Criterion Collection #661
Criterion Collection edition released June 18th, 2013
In Portland the week Marketa Lazarová was released by the Criterion Collection (fathers day), I went to the Art Museum and perused their events circular. I was surprised to see that the film division was featuring films from the Czech republic. Prior to reading that circular, I was arguably unaware that such a thing as "Czech film" even existed. Sure, I might have been able to identify Milos Forman as a Czech film film maker, but beyond that? No way.
Independent of learning about the existence of Czech cinema from a random circular at the Portland Art Museum, I've actually begun to watch the films on Criterion Collection Hulu Plus. First there was Closely Watched Trains, which is a kind of Czech take on a 400 Blows style French new wave coming of age film. Now there is Marketa Lazarová which is as different from Closely Watched Trains as Andrei Rublev is from When Cranes Fly (Woop Woop Russian Cinema Reference!)
Marketa Lazarová is a sprawling medieval epic, a kind of Czech cowboys-and-indians saga set in the early Middle Ages before Christianity had really taken the Western Slavs by the throat. The conflict in Marketa Lazarová is between Pagan Czech Robber Barons and the German backed King (represented by his envoy, Captain Beer.)
There is a ton of back story to this film- it's adapted from a Novel written by Vladislav Vančura, a Czech author who is interesting in his own right as a main mover in the Czech modernist art world. The Novel is a most peculiar beast, a kind of modern take on Epic literature with a wry sense of self awareness. Apparently, the source material is humorous/sardonic, but that sense of humor is lacking from the film, which comes across as very straight.
In addition to the voluminous back story, Marketa Lazarova has technical aspects that lend it an otherworldly field beyond the strangeness that a medieval Czech epic about a conflict between Pagans and Christians naturally evokes. For one thing, the vocals are both dubbed and echoed- something I've never seen in a film before. The characters practically speak with reverb. A strange, strange creative choice but hard to say it doesn't work. The whole movie is a gd magical experience. I would consider buying the DVD itself if I owned a blu ray DVD player which I don't.