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Cremator (1969)

Juraj Herz

Madness hidden in gentleness.

This film is definitely a masterpiece. I never seen anything similar to this. Not even close. I’m also the lucky one to be able to watch the film in its original language not needing to use subtitles. This was probably my 15th rewatch. Maybe even more.

In short, the story concentrates on mentally ill, deluded employee of Crematorium and happy family man with beautiful children and devoted wife. His illness is worsening together with his own scary way of exegesis of Tibetan Book of the dead. Easily manipulated, his friend from WW I lures him into the whole madness Nazi machinery in the 30’ slowly taking over in Europe. The teachings of his only spiritual Tibetan Book and Nazi politics slowly and surely transforming his character, his relationships, ending up as a chief cremator of a concentration camp.

The main character, Mr Koprfkingl, is played by excellent Rudolf Hrusinsky. I think, this was one of his best performances. Vlasta Chramostova portrayed his wife Lakme/Dagmar who was the only one aware of the madness growing in her husband.

Throughout the whole story Mr Kopfrkingl serves also as a narrator speaking to us with extremely pleasant, tranquil and soothing voice (kind of lulling us, like evil making its way, unnoticed) full of tenderness and peace in contrast to his gradually changing evil mind.

I like very much the camera and editing work going to close ups of Kopfrkingl’s angelic face and cutting to different scenes.

So long as Mr Koprfkingl keeps to his daily routine he’s quite harmless, then later, when he starts to adhere to the ideologies of Nazi movement that he easily reconciles with Buddhist philosophy, he’s immediately becoming aggressive killing his wife, children in order to “save” their souls. Only then he is fully prepared for his mission becoming the tool of murdering thousands of innocent people.

It’s quite difficult to quote anything from this picture as I think any English translation would fail to render the true meaning.

This movie is so true, especially nowadays, full of extremism and ill teachings and ideologies.