The Weight of War on a Marriage in Protektor


The story of a marriage’s fracture under the weight of Germany’s WWII occupation of Czechoslovakia, Protektor is a wartime melodrama with panache to spare, literally. Director Marek Najbrt divides the plight of Prague radio personality Emil Vrbata (Marek Daniel, who resembles a slightly puffier F. Scott Fitzgerald) and his actress wife, Hana (Jana Plodková), with interstitials of the lead characters doing some furious but obviously fake bicycle riding to a thrumming noir score. It’s the most obvious of the film’s leaps into heavy stylization, a choice that becomes more peculiar as the inevitable closes in. Emil has vowed to protect his Jewish wife, who wears a platinum wig to transform herself into both a movie star and a shiksa, and pledges docility in turn to Prague’s German “Deputy Protector.” It’s not all bad: Emil becomes popular with the Germans and flirts with his pretty new fans as Hana, exposed as a Jew, flirts with her old identity. Contempt takes hold between the two as Emil loses sight of the greater moral good in favor of his singular commitment to Hana. Najbrt gets the look and feel of noir fatalism down, but storytelling that alternates between roughshod and lethargic means the film doesn’t hold together as much more than pretty fragments.