(1967) was difficult to see — unless you lived in the Czech Republic, that is. In a 1998 survey, Czech critics and publicists voted it the country's best film. It deserves the lofty position; Marketa
is a film in which you relearn the language of cinema while watching it. Freely adapted from avant-garde writer and filmmaker Vladislav Vancura's 1931 book of the same name, Marketa
tells the labyrinthine tale of warring thirteenth-century tribes in Bohemia, depicting battles between pagans and Christians, Czechs and Germans. On an aesthetic level, the film is daring. Speech eerily reverberates with the post-sync sound’s slap-back echo, and Zdenek Liska, one of the cinema’s greatest composers, provides a score that is alternately electronic, percussive, and orchestral. Visually, it’s oneiric; shots alternate between desolate snowscapes and close-ups of dour, dirty faces captured in black-and-white CinemaScope. With its audio-visual experimentation and elliptical narrative, Marketa
makes strange the historical epic.
Up until a decade ago, Frantisek Vlacil's