Vladislav Vancura's novel Marketa Lazarova was based on an ancient Czechoslovakian legend. The film version concerns itself with a group of pillaging feudal lords. Though they regard themselves as noble knights, they are a rapist, robbing coterie of worldly rogues; slaves to the brutal politics and superstitions that grip their land. Magda Vasaryova plays Marketa Lazarova, whose misadventures begin when she is kidnapped and abused by the said rogues. And yet, Marketa retains a purity amidst the vulgarities of 13th century, mud, blood, and missing teeth.
In its native land, in a film critics pole, František Vláčil’s Marketa Lazarová has been hailed as the greatest Czech film ever made, and there is quite some competition for that accolade amongst the Czech New Wave films. Vláčil’s approach was to re-create the textures and mentalities of a long-ago way of life, rather than to make just another period drama, and the result is in the words of the Criterion Collection; "dazzling". That is an interesting adjective because the film has a bleak aesthetic and only achieves a dazzling visual impetus from the scenes of uncompromising winter snow on the plains. That is not to say the film isnt masterful. The depictions of Medieval Christianity, paganism and superstition blend seamlessly into the human landscape to make one of the most atmospheric films I have ever experienced. At 2hrs 42mins long, time become peculiarly distorted in a gripping metaphysical odyssey which maps the tarot narrative.
I have been holding off blogging about this film because I was hoping to show a clip of a specific scene, which doesn't seem to have made it onto Youtube by fans. It occurs about 1 hour in, and comprises a poetic sequence which is accompanied by stunning gliding visuals of wolves, crows, and the dark forest. I did intend to clip it with Movie Maker but my film is in .mkv format. This wouldnt be such a problem normally but because the subtitles are a separate .srt file, I would'v needed to hard sub the film, then clip it and the whole thing was of questionable value because I am sick and tired of getting movie clips deleted because of minor copyright infringement. So screw the corporations for trying to squeeze every anal penny out of poor people who can easily download and copy the files anyway. So you've got somebody else's idea of what the best scene is (from Youtube), and I've quoted the script for the wolf- poetry scene below that. And the world becomes a less diverse and creative place due to limiting totalitarian copyright laws. Hmm yes kind of Medievally so.
He grew up with the wolves and became one among people. Disdain fosters his pride, dislike breathes hatred. Scorned by all, Straba scorns them all in turn. With a grimace he disgraced the holy ancestral places. He does not want to be a subject of people or God. He's free like a wolf, but he has a human heart and that heart is full of sorrow. He grew up and the men would have him cast out. - Their word is law. - What happened to him? He heard the men's counsel and laughed. The quiet laugh of a wolf. He was beautiful - he chose the most comely maiden. She was afraid of him, and of her father even more. The father decides to whom you will be submissive. Straba raged and spilled blood from her throat. They flew upon him and put him in irons. A terrible punishment awaited him. The stake, said one, trampled by stallions, said another. They could not decide how he should die. Then the oldest of the line pronounced the sentence. May he have no place among humans, free as a wolf. His punishment would be in himself. Perun cast down lightning, but there were no clouds. And Straba? He laughs with the quiet laugh of the wolf. He leaves and bares his teeth with that laugh. Arrows had no power over him, he was free as a wolf. His life was not measured by the solstices. But he was alone. Delight passed him by, as it was not paid for by suffering. Life has no value without pain. At that time, he longed for pain, he sought death. He returned to that line that cast him out. But they had all grown old and did not know him. The young men flew at him with arms. One remembered and shouted, "Keep away from him!" He has come for death and we shall deny it him. All retreated and mocked him. He returned to die and death was denied him. Their mockery burned. He shook like an aspen leaf. He sought the place where his heart was. He seized the nearest knife and stabbed into it. But the knife broke and no blood was drawn. He was alone again.