The Cremator / Krakatit
Sun 4/2/2023 • 7PM PDT
Billy Wilder Theater
Presented by the UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Los Angeles
Admission is free. No advance reservations. Free tickets must be obtained on a first come, first served basis at the box office, where seating will be assigned.
Spalovac mrtvol, Czechoslovakia, 1969
Right from The Cremator’s opening scene, an ostensibly idyllic family trip to a zoo, director Juraj Herz builds an unsettling undercurrent that crescendos into waves of horror that only presage still greater torrents to come. Juraj Herz’s distorted lenses, flashcut imagery and oblique angles are helped along by the overstuffed creepiness of Rudolf Hrusínský as the family patriarch and proud owner of a crematory whose faith in the cleansing power of fire and death feels all the more disturbing this being 1930s Czechoslovakia when fascist youth fliers appeal “Come join us.” Banned by Communist authorities on its release, The Cremator’s still jarring vision of the banality of evil returns to screens in a new digital restoration.
DCP, b&w, in Czech with English subtitles, 100 min. Director: Juraj Herz. Screenwriter: Ladislav Fuks, Juraj Herz. With: Rudolf Hrusínský, Vlasta Chramostová, Jana Stehnová.
A noirish fever dream of a science fiction thriller, Krakatit draws on multiple influences to tell a wholly original tale of Cold War paranoia and doom. Awaking in a hospital emergency room with no identification and no memory of how he got there, a disoriented man only mutters the enigmatic word “krakatit.” Fragmentary flashbacks reveal he is a renowned chemist who stumbled on the formula for a powdery explosive with apocalyptic potential. Horrified by his own creation, he struggles to suppress it as agents and spies for shadowy interests vie to seize it for themselves. A cautionary tale of the nuclear age, it was directed by Otakar Vávra, a reliable supporter of the Communist party line, a year before the Soviet Union’s first atomic test.
DCP, b&w, in Czech with English subtitles, 110 min. Director: Otakar Vávra. Screenwriter: Otakar Vávra, Jaroslav Vávra. With: Karel Höger, Florence Marly, Eduard Linkers.