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27 March 2018: Marketa Lazarová


Marketa Lazarová
František Vláčil
1966 | 180 min | B/W | Digital
Czech & German with English subtitles

“Upon its release in 1966, Variety declared Marketa Lazarová, with its three-hour length, elliptical dream-like narrative, and totally foreign flavor – "a stunning work...unsuitable for general commercial release." Now recognized as an epic Gothic tale, this monumental Czech masterpiece is a film whose audience has finally caught up with it. Set in the remote forests of Bohemia in the 13th century, the complex plot is woven around the abduction and brutal rape of Marketa Lazarová, a clan leader’s angelic, convent-bound daughter, by a fierce pagan warrior. Foregoing the temptation to reduce the story to a simple highwayman adventure, filmmaker František Vláčil – known for his poetic lyricism – revives the age in all its stark details, penetrating into the hearts and minds of his ancestors. Haunting photography and searing religious imagery render the story an atavistic nightmare, a cinematic poem difficult to categorize in terms of genre or form. As a metaphor for the clash between the old and the new, the declining pagan world as it succumbed to the rise of Christianity, the film also presages the changes that would sweep modern-day Czechoslovakia at the dusk of socialism. This rarely seen work – six years in the making – evokes Kurosawa or Mizoguchi: intense, poetic and devastatingly cinematic.” – San Francisco Film Festival Guide

Part of our essential cinema programme