JURAJ HERZ

   

The following article was published in N-SPHERE March 2012 issue.


Juraj Herz is one of the more obscure exponents of the Czech New Wave, mostly because his works do not have that political touch, or should I say there may be some political touches, but they don’t revolve around a clear message in this particular area. He is a »late romantic« so to say, more fascinated with the mood and camera movements and, while you could say the same thing about some other better-known directors from the Czech New Wave, Herz‘s works (especially Morgiana and The Cremator) are strangely engaging from a certain point on. In his films there is a sense of a traditional plot (in Morgiana, for example, there is an entirely readable plot) and they are visually exquisite, but indeed they lack that type of frenzy the rest of C.N.W. exponents have.

Although, it is still a mystery to me why The Cremator has been overlooked. Not only that it shares enough common ground with other C.N.W. films by means of approach and aesthetics, but it is also a very corrosive satire on a considerable part of all the social commodities masquerading as rules of conduct or real values.

The opening scene of The Cremator is very poetic, and you are lead to believe that you will be watching a quite meditative film, until you realize you were being »conned«.

The satire is somewhat straight and in-your-face, there is nothing too subtle about it, but this makes it even more effective. There is that familiar tone, the things you heard before, things you were told to take seriously or things that people other people have shown a great deal of respect toward. Things and people here are presented in tones that switch from grotesque to repulsive.

Speaking of familiarity, some of the characters’ names are at least a bit interesting: Lakme (the heroine of Delibes‘ opera), Dvorak (Antonin Leopold Dvorak, Czech composer) and Bettlelheim (Bruno Bettlelheim, child psychologist and writer.).

There is a strong expressionistic scent throughout the whole picture: you could very well be thinking you are watching a silent horror/comedy. Horror can be born from confusion as well and this is where the camerawork pays off. It is mostly a type of suggestive horror, because we do not see something clear, even its final scenes not being graphical, yet being powerful. The state of confusion also serves well into depicting the mental disintegration of the protagonist.

In one of his other works – MorgianaJuraj Herz uses the same gloomy gothic tone, only this time the socio-political context is absent. Again, the story, from some point on, becomes pretty engaging, there is a hitchcockian feeling throughout the whole film and Herz, once again, proves that he is a creative visual stylist. While not presenting anything new in particular, Morgiana works well for those with a taste for gothic gloomy fairytales.

All in all, Juraj Herz is a director worth checking out by those of you who have seen and enjoyed at least half of the movies previously presented here, because it is difficult to place him into a more specific category than what I have described above. So, if you had »put up« with our other »friendly suggestions«, good chance you won’t be disappointed here either. Personally, I liked Morgiana better than The Cremator, but the latter holds a more significant importance.

By Shade

photo | The Cremator. Movie still

Full article here.

 

Juraj Herz is one of the more obscure exponents of the Czech New Wave, mostly because his works do not have that political touch, or should I say there may be some political touches, but they don’t revolve around a clear message in this particular area. He is a »late romantic« so to say, more fascinated with the mood and camera movements and, while you could say the same thing about some other better-known directors from the Czech New Wave, Herz‘s works (especially Morgiana and The Cremator) are strangely engaging from a certain point on. In his films there is a sense of a traditional plot (in Morgiana, for example, there is an entirely readable plot) and they are visually exquisite, but indeed they lack that type of frenzy the rest of C.N.W. exponents have.

 

Although, it is still a mystery to me why The Cremator has been overlooked. Not only that it shares enough common ground with other C.N.W. films by means of approach and aesthetics, but it is also a very corrosive satire on a considerable part of all the social commodities masquerading as rules of conduct or real values.

 

The opening scene of The Cremator is very poetic, and you are lead to believe that you will be watching a quite meditative film, until you realize you were being »conned«.

 

The satire is somewhat straight and in-your-face, there is nothing too subtle about it, but this makes it even more effective. There is that familiar tone, the things you heard before, things you were told to take seriously or things that people other people have shown a great deal of respect toward. Things and people here are presented in tones that switch from grotesque to repulsive.

 

Speaking of familiarity, some of the characters’ names are at least a bit interesting: Lakme (the heroine of Delibes‘ opera), Dvorak (Antonin Leopold Dvorak, Czech composer) and Bettlelheim (Bruno Bettlelheim, child psychologist and writer.).

 

There is a strong expressionistic scent throughout the whole picture: you could very well be thinking you are watching a silent horror/comedy. Horror can be born from confusion as well and this is where the camerawork pays off. It is mostly a type of suggestive horror, because we do not see something clear, even its final scenes not being graphical, yet being powerful. The state of confusion also serves well into depicting the mental disintegration of the protagonist.

 

In one of his other works – MorgianaJuraj Herz uses the same gloomy gothic tone, only this time the socio-political context is absent. Again, the story, from some point on, becomes pretty engaging, there is a hitchcockian feeling throughout the whole film and Herz, once again, proves that he is a creative visual stylist. While not presenting anything new in particular, Morgiana works well for those with a taste for gothic gloomy fairytales.

 

All in all, Juraj Herz is a director worth checking out by those of you who have seen and enjoyed at least half of the movies previously presented here, because it is difficult to place him into a more specific category than what I have described above. So, if you had »put up« with our other »friendly suggestions«, good chance you won’t be disappointed here either. Personally, I liked Morgiana better than The Cremator, but the latter holds a more significant importance.