Article #1428 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-10-2005
Posting Date: 7-10-2005
Directed by Otakar Vavra
Featuring Karel Hoger, Florence Marly, Eduard Linkers
An ill man has a fever dream in which he creates an explosive powder called Krakatit, which becomes an eagerly sought substance by foreign powers.
Once again I find myself watching a foreign movie in its native language (Czech) without subtitles; however, I was also given a document which translated the dialogue for me, so by following the script while watching the movie, I was able (albeit awkwardly) to follow the story. This is good, as the story is complex enough that if I had had to rely on the visuals alone, I would have been lost. It’s a powerful story by Karel Capek, the Czech writer responsible for the birth of the word ‘robot’ (from the play “R.U.R.”) about the illusion that the ultimate weapon will be the ultimate peacemaker. There are some haunting moments here, particularly in scenes with an old mailman and with a mysterious character called D’Hemon (pronounced “Daimon”, and if you know a word that sounds very close to that, you’ll have a clue to his real identity). Since the movie is framed by sequences in which a doctor and a nurse try to care for the ill main character, you’re left wondering whether the events are being dreamed or remembered. At any rate, this is a powerful movie, and it’s a shame that it’s not better known or more widely available.