Tuesday, 20 August 2013
The Cremator 
Juraj Herz resided at the edge of the Czech New Wave, and if The Cremator, the tonally and thematically darkest film belonging to that movement I’ve watched so far, is anything to go by, it is easy to guess why. This was a lacerating black comedy and a horrifying political allegory – all using the morbid motif of a crematorium, with a narrative that was highly surreal, and an expressionistic cinematographic style that was intensely disorienting both visually and psychologically, which all further amplified its grotesqueness. Karl (Rudolf Hrusinsky), the chubby-faced and deceptively amiable protagonist, works at a state-owned crematorium and is a happy family man. However, as Herz started scratching deeper into his life, discomfiting imbalances and ominous patterns started emerging – he is an orderliness freak, he has a right-wing orientation making him easily gullible to Nazi indoctrination, he has strong opinions on propriety and morality, albeit glibly oblivious to his own hypocrisy in the form of taking surreptitious trips to a brothel and then getting himself regularly examined by a doctor on false pretexts, he is overly religious, he lays huge importance on the importance of masculinity, so on and so forth. In short, he’s sociopathic and dangerous, with a darn creepy smile as added bonus. His increasing madness, thus, engulfs his mind and life, and proves devastating for everyone around him. Hrusinsky provided a powerful peek into, to borrow the title of Conrad’s novella, the heart of darkness, and the impact was accentuated by the use of extreme close-ups, and the way, during the space of a shot, seamless transformations of scenes took place which provided for subtle but fascinating juxtaposition of parallel perspectives and scenarios.
Director: Juraj Herz
Genre: Black Comedy/Political Satire/Psychological Horror/Avant-Garde
Country: Czech Republic (erstwhile Czechoslovakia)