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From the Archive: Treasures of Eastern European and Soviet Cinema

Friday, June 28, 2013
9:00 p.m. The Cremator
Juraj Herz (Czechoslovakia, 1968)

(Spalovac mrtvol, a.k.a. Carnival of Heretics). An extraordinary dark fantasy that is at once allegory and hyperrealism—much like the era it depicts, the rise of Nazism. Based on a novella by Ladislav Fuks, it tells of a conscientious Prague crematorium employee, Mr. Kopfrking (Rudolf Hrusínsky), who becomes so taken with the importance of his work—he believes that by burning their bodies he is liberating the souls of the departed—that he begins selectively murdering new victims. Beginning with his own wife, he plans to eliminate the unfit. Mr. Kopfrking’s mystical mission is in accord with current Nazi thinking and he is an easy convert; when Hitler’s army moves in, he is promoted to bigger and better furnaces. This eerie political horror-thriller recalls the German Expressionist works of Murnau and Lang, which were so prescient in evoking fascist delusions of grandeur. Like them, Juraj Herz relies on a meticulously observed reality to provide its own grotesque impact.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Herz, Ladislav Fuks, based on a novella by Fuks. Photographed by Stanislav Milota. With Rudolf Hrusínsky, Vlasta Chramostová, Jana Stehnová, Milos Vognic. (100 mins, In Czech with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, PFA Collection)