Spalovac Mrtvol (The Cremator) (1969)
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Critic Reviews for Spalovac Mrtvol (The Cremator)
Audience Reviews for Spalovac Mrtvol (The Cremator)
A bleak Czechoslovakian drama, The Cremator is atmospheric and creepy, although it seems like a stretch to call it a horror film. It's about Karl Kopfrkingl (good luck pronouncing that), a death-obsessed sociopath who cremates dead bodies for a living in 1930s Czechoslovakia, just as the Nazis begin to take over the country. After a Nazi convinces Kopfrkingl that he is German and it's his duty to aid in "purifying" Czechoslovakia, Kopfrkingl takes the Nazi philosophy as his own and becomes increasingly delusional as he inches towards the edge of sanity. Its eerie atmosphere stems largely from the lead actor's performance (which I'm omitting because I can only spell so many Czech names in one paragraph) and the very unique cinematography full of close-up shots and quick cuts. The camera work lets you into the mind of the very impressionable and unstable protagonist, and it definitely makes the entire movie much more entertaining. That said, the movie is more or less a drama up until the last twenty or thirty minutes, so those expecting a scary movie in the traditional sense are in for a let down. Still, it's a strange and interesting foreign movie with a hefty amount of commentary on Nazism (if you're into that sort of thing) and the fantastic cinematography and acting make it well-made, if not entirely engaging all the time.
Good manners, tidiness, or healthy abstinence are perfect, at first, to conceal a growing psychopathy. From Kafka's land comes this bizarre and engaging study of man obsessed with death, mainly because he works as a funeral director and passionately reads the tibetan book of the dead. With all that strange things rambling in his mind, the rise of nazism presents itself as the perfect oportunity for him to unleash his fantasies. The most attractive element of the picture is the mise en scene, the constant use of deep focus, hand held camera and dutch tilt succesfully materializes an unnerving and nightmarish atmosphere reminiscent of Welles' The Trial or Bergman's Hour of the wolf.
This movie is fucked up. Getting in to the film was difficult for me, because I had no idea where the film was going, but it just turns into something great. The excuses the cremator uses to justify what he is doing is chilling and it was an intensely, neat watch.
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