I am informed that Frantisek Vlácil’s Marketa Lazarová (1967) was voted—by a 1998 survey of Czech critics—the greatest Czech film ever made. Setting aside the question of either how many Czech critics there are, or just how much competition there is for that accolade (oh, I’ll get mail for that), I have to say that I simply don’t “get it.” Indeed, I find the film itself verging on the incomprehensible, and—at 158 minutes—one tough slog. That said, I freely concede that it is a visually stunning work. Its widescreen compositions are invariably striking, and Vlácil’s technical mastery is without question—hence the four-star rating. The story about a feud between two 13th-century clans—one Christian, one pagan—with the title character at its center, didn’t do much for me. I’ve seen it compared to Seven Samurai (1954), Andrei Rublev (1966) and The Seventh Seal (1957), but I don’t see much connection with those. As drama, it simply didn’t connect with me on any level, but I’m not writing it off or saying it’s bad—merely, that it’s not for me. Those with a strong interest in Eastern European film may well feel differently. And visually, it is indeed something to see.
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