Marketa Lazarova / Marketa Lazarová (Czechoslovakia, 1967)

directed by František Vláčil, historical drama, 162 min, eng subtitles
written by František Pavlíček, František Vláčil
with Magda Vašáryová, František Velecký, Josef Kemr, Vladimír Menšík

A daring visual masterpiece set in the 13th century when marauding knights rob pilgrims on royal roads, when Christianity still fights with paganism and when human life has little value. It is an epic tale of two fighting feudal clans and a group of Saxon knights, loosely centred on a raw medieval beauty, Marketa Lazarová, who is initially a depiction of noble, wide-eyed spiritual purity which is brutally transformed into an awakened passion and a final defiant independence. Kozlík, the scarred and brutish leader of one of the clans, rules over an insignificant corner of his lord's uninviting kingdom. After his sons, Mikoláš and Adam, pillage a royal caravan and kidnap Kristián, a young bishop, the king sends an army to wipe out the merciless upstarts. Meanwhile, Mikoláš seeks the aid of his neighbour, Lazar, to set up an ambush but he is repelled by the scheming coward and almost killed. Mikoláš returns for vengeance...
However, Vláčil is not really interested in telling a gripping story. He puts the emphasis on the poetic image and paints a world of rivalry, despair, lust, and revenge in restless brush strokes, his camera following characters, animals and nature's shifting currents with equal curiosity. This is what really makes this movie, made during the Czech New Wave, an astounding work of art and brings to mind the work of other directors like Tarkovsky (Andrei Roublev,1966); Dreyer (Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928); Kurosawa (Seven Samurai, 1954), Bergman (The Seventh Seal,1957) and Eisenstein (Ivan the Terrible,1944).
Marketa Lazarová was voted the greatest Czech film ever made in a 1998 poll of Czech and Slovak film scholars.

IXth IFF Mar del Plata, Argentina 1968 (Special Jury Award)
XIIth IFF Edinburgh 1968 (Honorary Diploma)
1998 poll of Czech and Slovak film critics and publicists (All-Time Best Czech-Slovak Feature Movie)