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16 May 2019: The Boxer and Death


The Boxer and Death
Peter Solan, 1962, 95 min
Czech and German with English subtitles

"Films on the war and the Nazi occupation may have been a safe harbor for filmmakers in the 1950s but The Boxer and Death, in the pivotal year of 1962, marked a change: harshly poetic and resolutely unsentimental, it provided no emotional refuge and left no question as to its commitment to the contemporary moment. The film was banned, shelved, and has only recently resurfaced. The story of a Czech concentration camp inmate, a one-time professional boxer who is singled out by the German commandant as his personal sparring partner, is played out as a stark existential drama. […] No irony is lost in Stefan Kvietik's portrayal of the prisoner Kominek, whose gaunt face is a map of anger and pain, and then dismay when he begins to be given whole loaves of bread, spend time in training, and suffer Herr Commandant's lectures about sportsmanlike behavior in place of the harangues saved for his comrades as they dig their own graves. Commandant Kraft (Manfred Krug) is distracted and cruel by turns; boxing is his vanity sport, Kominek his mirror, and he plays their psychic combat as if both their lives depended on it. Slovak director Peter Solan has interpreted the Polish novel by Josef Hen in exquisitely understated images that delineate Kominek's vision (a pile of suitcases, dolls, violin cases-a pitiless absence) and the absurd complicity of his position." – BAMPFA

Part of our season on the Czechoslovak New Wave