For a species which specialises in horrendous acts of depravity, the lowest point (so far) in human history was unquestionably The Holocaust. The true horror has been documented many times in literature and on the big screen. This has been done in many ways, most famously on film by Steven Spielberg in Schindler’s List. However, other notable interpretations include The Pianist, Sophie’s Choice, Shoah, Europa Europa and Life is Beautiful. The Cremator approaches the subject from an utterly unique angle and it’s absolutely terrifying.
During the 1930s, as the Czechoslovak Republic begins to slide under the influence of Nazi Germany, Karl Kopfrkingl (Rudolf Hrušínský) works in a crematorium in Prague. He’s dedicated to his job and becomes increasingly obsessed with what he believes to be the good cause; liberating the souls of the departed through his work. As he allows himself to be drawn towards fascist doctrine, Karl discovers his power and influence growing. Along with his mania.
The Cremator is an incredibly disturbing, but not in the usual way you would expect from a Holocaust film. Director Juraj Herz mixes drama with some of the bleakest black humour you’re liable to witness. This creates the macabre figure of Karl and his unhinged and deranged mind. As Karl descends at a rapid rate down the rabbit hole, Herz smothers on layers of political allegory. It’s not subtle, and communism and fascism get equally short shrift, but The Cremator is a clever, disturbing and powerful expressionistic horror.
Blu-Ray Special Edition Contents:
- The Cremator (Spalovač mrtvol, 1968) presented from a new HD transfer from original materials by the Czech National Film Archive
- Filmed introduction by the Quay Brothers
- Audio Commentary by Daughters of Darkness’ editor-in-chief Kat Ellinger
- Juraj Herz’s short film The Junk Shop (Sběrné surovosti, 1965)
- The Projection Booth podcast with Mike White and critic Samm Deighan
- Booklet with an essay on Herz and the film by writer/producer Daniel Bird
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- Region Free
- World premiere release on Blu-ray
The Cremator is released on Blu-ray by Second Run DVD on 11 December.