Marketa Lazarová Reviews
Bed?ich Ba?ka's cinematography, Zden?k Lika's odd musical score and Vlácil's own seemingly painstaking attention to even the smallest details create an atmosphere that doesn't just feel like The Middle Ages, after a short while you feel like you are in The Middle Earth. Forget about Peter Jackson's hyper-reality. This feels like the real-deal.
The story is very simple, but it is told in fragments. The character of "Marketa" is obviously the focus point of the film, but she almost slips in and out of our story as her would-be and often very real abusers take the center position.
Considering this Czechoslovakia was filmed in 1966, nothing about the film feels like it is from that date. The movie plays within the confines of the world in which it is placed, but this is a world filled with superstition and vengeance. Witchery is at foot and the reality sometimes gives sway to the hallucinatory. Even Marketa's beauty is treated in an almost surreal way. Filmed in stunning black and white there is no concern about false colored blood -- and there is bloodshed. Sometimes pushed to the level of gruesome.
Despite all the ugliness, this film is almost magical to me. I just get lost in it. I'm not alone. Many consider this to be the most important film to ever come out of Czechoslovakia. I'm not sure if this is true, but this is a film experience you do not want to miss.
It is a slow-burn start and the fragmentary way in which the story unfolds can be a bit confusing. The fist time I saw this movie was on DVD, I had to stop it and re-watch the first 45 minutes to be sure I understood what was happening. But the concentration is well worth it.
A vastly overrated film, the word "teutonic bombast" comes to my mind.
Imagine Game of Thrones directed my Ingmar Bergman, this could almost be a companion piece to his own The Seventh Seal.
Is this the greatest Czech film ever? It is still too soon for me to compare, but I will say this. This film is unapologetically poetic and viscerally brutal. It is heavy with all the weights great art can provide.
this is definitly my best new wave czechoslovakian film
Clocking in at about two hours and three quarters, this film promises to be an epic, and in terms of its being so heavily layered with its narrative, I suppose it is, yet there's hardly enough scope or dynamicity to justify a relatively sprawling length which is achieved largely through near-monotonous filler, and an even greater excess in material. The many narrative layers of this drama should fit reasonably snug in the context of the plot's progression, but if there is a sense of excess to the material, then it is stressed by a sense of episodicity, which sees the film spending too much time with each segment, yet not enough to flesh them out enough to make the eventual focal shifts smooth. The film is seriously uneven with its focus, just as its uneven with its pacing and, yes, even its style, which is often grounded, or at least highly atmospheric, until jarring into a touch of abstractionism which is not realized enough for the film to flow with its themes. As if that's not aggravating enough, on top of being uneven, the style of the film is already pretty problematic by its own right, because beyond pacing and focal consistency, there are such questionable structuring moves as the awkward placement of a text prologue before each segment, or overly thematic imagery, or ostensibly somewhat disjointed characterization, whose experimental tastes distance one's investment almost as much as experimental direction which relies too heavily on artistry and atmosphere to dramatically thrive. The combination of an overblown narrative and an overwrought style, and neither structure aspect's being as realized as they should be, render the film, well, sort of monotonous, at least when pacing is further stiffened by a chilled directorial atmosphere which dull things down, occasionally as tedious. When I say that tedium is occasional, I mean that the 160-smomething-minute runtime comes in handy by allowing the dramatic lowlights to be spread out few and far between, although, with that said, the film never abandons its problems, challenging them time and again with solid strengths, but not quite formidably enough for the final product to be memorable for anything beyond its aesthetic value. Still, as much as the film tries your patience, it shouldn't completely overpower it, because as artistically unrealized as this drama is, it has plenty to commend, even when it comes to visual style.
Needless to say, this hyper-atmospheric art film is a little too reliant on its environment, but the deep snow setting of this lyrically bleak drama was always going to be instrumental in the establishment of both tone and aesthetic value, and sure enough, this film's beautiful environment goes complimented by cinematography by Bedřich Baťka which, while held back by a black-and-white palette, is playful enough in lighting and scope to attract you into this film's handsome world. Of course, the most impressive artistic aspect of this film is Zdeněk Lika's score, because whether it be flaunting biting pieces which range from sweeping to chilling, or delivering on outstanding triumphs in choral classical compositions, it proves to be more near-astoundingly beautiful, and decidedly effective in the context of this pseudo-epic. Limitations of the time sort of hold the artistic value of this film back, making it harder to deny the dramatic fumblings which highlights in style could have made up for, but the fact of the matter is that aesthetic value is rich enough to play a big role in making the film reasonably attractive. This attractiveness allows you to soak in the subject matter of this drama, which, as I've said time and again, is overwrought, with an exhausting amount of layers to mishandle with focal unevenness, in addition to stylistic unevenness and questionability which further thins substance, but hardly into obscurity, for their is enough intrigue to this Middle Ages adventure thriller and provocative deconstruction of humanity to hold up a lot of potential. Maybe this film could have soared, if it wasn't so caught up in its artistic license, because the final product really is about as reliant on style as it is on substance, and that betrays the potential of this film, though not quite as much as it could have. Frantiek Vláčil's direction feels more confident than genuinely realized, jarring between and rarely fully fleshing out his vision of a subtle drama and solid artistic expression, but no matter how much Vláčil's questionable touches hold the film back, when it comes to style, there is plenty of striking imagery and haunting plays on technical value and musicality to establish plenty of commendable aesthetic value, and when it comes to substance, when he gains a grip on his thoughtfulness, he delivers on a piercing subtlety and grace which was a fair ways ahead of the time. This was an innovative film, and it can still at least be respected for that, make no mistake, even if its touches will always be questionable, and yet, there have been much greater artistic misfires, with this misguided opus being well-drawn enough as an artistic endeavor and chilling drama to endear, despite being challenging.
Kdy sníh konečně taje, near-exhausting excessiveness and unevenness to plotting, an uneven and already questionable style, and near-monotonous cold spells to atmospherics render the final product pretty decidedly underwhelming, but not the misfire that it could have been, because through a haunting visual style, outstanding musical style, intriguing premise, and generally stylistically sharp direction, Frantiek Vláčil's "Marketa Lazarová" stands as an adequately intriguing and occasionally engrossing, if overwrought classic in Czech and art cinema.
2.5/5 - Fair
It is a bit hard to follow for a non-speaker of Czech, as it surreally jumps around consciousness and time. I probably need to re-view it if I am to enjoy it fully. However, it is undoubtedly one of the most gorgeously shot black and white films I have ever seen. The Criterion Collection transfer is outstanding. The film could have been shot yesterday, but then again it probably looks too good to have been shot yesterday.
It reminds me of the spirit of the beehive in how it hints at the violence and repression of the era in which it was produced by using an historical example. The violence of Christianity replacing the violence of Paganism is an analogue to the violence of Soviet-style Communism replacing the violence of capitalism or the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The book was written in 1931, a couple years before a political movement that would have existential consequences for the Czech people took root. The film was completed by 1967, a few months before Dubcek initiated the Prague Spring reforms that were crushed by the Soviet Union. The pressure in the Czech art world was preparing to blossom at this fleeting moment in time.
"Lazarova" is a vast and nuanced epic that reveals the cyclical brutality of humanity, and I don't mean that as a condemnation of our brethren necessarily. (29 May 2014)
It didn't help either that whilst the film is subtitled, the Czech dialogue is dubbed - usual for the time - but it's so poorly done that it can be quite distracting and unintentionally hammy.