Wednesday, January 3, 2018

#617: Marketa Lazarová

1967, TSPDT Rank #422

Marketa Lazarová, often named as the greatest Czech film ever made, begins with a narrator introducing a story based on "old tales of foolish deeds ... told at the behest of a wandering echo, and because even the most ancient things lie in the web of present time." This tantalizing prelude sets the stage for a historical epic that is like no other. Set in the Czech kingdom at some point during the Middle Ages, Marketa Lazarová presents a story of people and customs that might seem completely foreign to 21st century viewers at first glance. However, as the story unfolds, it seems to hold an eerie resonance with our contemporary world. The landscape often looks quite familiar, and the themes of human cruelty, violence, religious hypocrisy and forbidden love are even more recognizable. At the same time, Marketa Lazarová is a film which seems to emerge from out of the mists of time. Its arresting use of deep-focus widescreen black-and-white cinematography creates a dense web of visual detail and a mood of hyper-reality, which the filmmakers used to create an imaginative rendering of a distant past that is nevertheless completely believable. The result is a film of strange and mystifying beauty, with many layers of complexity that are sure to reward multiple viewings immensely.

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