The epic of Czech film.
Its reputation precedes it.
And I have much to say about this gargantuan length of film.
For when last I delved into the canon, I was greeted with a short watch.
It was pleasant. It was complete. Everything which needed to be said was said.
This film is in some ways the opposite.
Two hours and 42 minutes.
I have not had such trouble viewing a film since Jeanne Dielman…
And I want to say this is the equal of that Belgian gem.
Marketa Lazarová is played by the stunningly-beautiful Magda Vášáryová.
Magdaléna if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.
A Slovak actress. Who lives!
But sadly Ms. Vášáryová is in this film far too little.
When she appears, she usurps the screen with her loveliness.
She is as fleeting as a lamb…
She is our lamb we try to save.
To no avail.
My beard is invisible. I am twice my age.
Mostly from sitting through this film.
This is the Czech Gone with the Wind.
But there is a reward in its totality.
It’s as if Buñuel greets us upon the start of Part II.
Yes, there’s an intermission of sorts.
The internal monologue of the Almighty.
When He’s least enamored with us.
Appreciates our simplicity. And breaks the fourth wall with a critique of our oratory skills.
So director František Vláčil did have some truly genius tricks up his sleeve.
But most of this film is bleak. Bare. Plodding. More ennui than boredom.
Which is to say that misery sounds more artful in French.
The misery of a convoluted story told by a mediocre bard.
And so someone didn’t do somebody justice.
František Vláčil had real facility.
Then do we find fault with novelist Vladislav Vančura?
Perhaps it was just a bad match.
But it’s not a bad film.
It’s just not the greatness which so often accrues to length.
Long doesn’t necessarily mean important.
Did Kissinger really need 912 pages to relate Diplomacy?
I’m not even a fan of Tolstoy.
There are, in fact, few behemoths behind which I can get.
The Brothers Karamazov is one.
And I would argue that Marketa Lazarová has some of that pithy, earthy grit to it.
A little witchcraft.
But Vláčil manages to add very faint, subtle hints of psychedelia to this story.
It was, after all, 1967.
But it’s more ergot than LSD.
A slight différance.