Film Review: Charlatan

Jan and Frantisek

Whilst never receiving the credit she undoubtedly deserves Agnieszka Holland has enjoyed a long and illustrious career. Born shortly after the end of World War II, she began her career as an assistant director to two of the Polish greats; Krzysztof Zanussi and Andrzej Wajda. Holland has made a number of films spanning five decades, most famously Europa, Europa and In Darkness. Her new film, Charlatan, once again tackles themes around identity.

Jan Mikolášek (Ivan Trojan) is a well-known Czech healer. As a young man he was taught to diagnose illness just using age, sex and a sample of urine. Employing mostly plant remedies to treat ailments. Assisted by Frantisek Palko (Juraj Loj), who also became his lover, Mikolášek treated hundreds of patients every day. These included infamous Nazis and communist figures. However, his refusal to nationalise and decision to charge for his services places him on a collision path with the authorities.

Charlatan is the true story of a man whose life was riddled with contradictions. Mikolášek dedicated himself to healing others but at the same time struggled to overcome the demons inside him. This internal conflict is captured beautifully by Trojan, whose temper and violent tendencies often bubble just beneath the surface. Charlatan is impeccably crafted and assuredly handled. An engaging portrait of a damaged man.

Charlatan is released on digital by AX1 on 7 May.

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