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The BFI contributed to that process of posthumous retrieval and recognition with a retrospective of Vláčil's work, critic Peter Hames has worked tirelessly and brilliantly in the cause – with sterling support from the online community, and Second Run have done Vláčil copious justice with a superb package of DVD releases, including a box set of treasure.
better to huddle by the fire and remember old times... A collective push by critics, cinemas, cinephiles and distributors is gradually securing a place for Vláčil among the greats.
Vláčil invokes a mediaeval fable in what might nowadays be called "cutting edge form." Hostile to conventional historical dramas, with their formulaic narratives and tendency to sanitise the past, Vláčil sought, paradoxically, to evoke the 13th Century with an authenticity born of obsession, while deploying every formal innovation he could muster.
Vláčil studied the living conditions and traditions of 'primitive' tribes; read history, anthropology and mythology voraciously; and painstakingly schooled his actors in their characters' psychology.
Thereafter, Bernard meanders, as a tragic-comic cypher binding the narrative, through the chaotic scenes that follow, as the King's army closes in to confront the Kozlíks in battle, all the way to the film's climax.
Those are mere hints of a coherent but complex and fragmented plot.
Commanding a budget several times larger than would then have been usual for films produced at the Barrandov Studios, the film used over 58,000 metres of film stock.
Fed up with films that represented the past by presenting "contemporary people dressed up in costumes," Vláčil insisted that his actors live their parts.
Locations were scouted for their resemblance to the landscapes and dwellings of those days (the script stipulated the events depicted occurred between 15 February and 1 August 1250).Vláčil's interest, though, lay not in plot but in psychology, time and place.The appearance of the title in the opening credits – with the word Marketa in Gothic script, the word Lazarová in a contemporary font – immediately announces that the film will combine the ancient and the modern.Old Kozlík argues that this will bring retribution to their doors – as it, ultimately, does, for the outraged King subsequently orders his Marshall, Pivo, to hunt down the clan.As Adam prepares to behead Kristián, Old Kozlík orders a stay of execution, on those pragmatic rather than compassionate grounds.