Some films that end up on my doorstep for me to review are bad. Some are excellent. There are those that confuse me and leave me scratching my head, while others leave me with a smile on my face because they entertained me so much. Usually I can judge a little bit of how things are going to be by the DVD cover art and the short description given on the back of the case, but that doesn’t make up my mind for me because that comes from watching it. Every once in a while (maybe 1 out of every 100), a film will come along that leaves me not only in confusion as to what was going on but also as to what I think. Someone needs to explain to me then why the DVD cover art of a 1968 Czechoslovakian film has a guy that looks like DJ Qualls on it.
Karl Kopfrkingl is a man that is widely respected in his community in late ’60s Prague, but times are starting to get tough for everyone. Karl works at a crematorium and exists only to make life, and death, easier for everyone, even though his ideas of easy might seem rather twisted to everyone else. He believes life is when people suffer the most throughout their existence and need to be cremated as soon as possible to let their soul escape and live in freedom. Yes, it sounds rather over the top but Karl feels that he is promoting the right and best thing for everyone.
The reason things had been getting so difficult for everyone is that World War II is quickly approaching and life is about to change for anyone and everyone, especially Karl. Karl’s life is rather simple. He goes to work, comes home to be with his family in the evenings and has fun with them during his off time on the weekends. Karl is a religious man that doesn’t do anything wrong and won’t even touch an alcoholic drink or cigarette. Sadly though, his life and mind are about to be thrown into total confusion since World War II is going to split the bonds of his family since he is Buddhist and his wife is Jewish.
The Cremator is just a weird-as-hell film that will have you entranced by the compelling story of Karl and his family, but bewildered by everything else that happens to and around them. It’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not really good either. Obviously it is dabbling its foot into the waters of being a dark comedy and trying to satire things as they were around the time of World War II. Things are explained a bit through the mind of Karl as he sort of narrates the goings-on in between events with his job, the war, and his family. It makes all the events a little clearer, but not to the point where you can sit through the film without raising an eyebrow every once and again because it’s just damn mind-boggling.
The film is shown in 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format and is presented in black and white. Oddly enough it looks really good even though it is over forty years old and has been transferred to DVD beautifully without any grain or problems.
The film is heard in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Sound and it comes through alright, but you won’t need to worry about it because you’ll be paying attention to the subtitles anyway. Speaking of the subtitles, they look well and are easily readable.
Consider me at a loss here because The Cremator is not good or not bad, but it is confusing, intelligent, funny, frightening, and just all around weird. It’s neither something I intend on watching over and over again nor will it remain a staple of my collection.
See how indifferent it’s made me?
Dark Sky Films presents The Cremator. Directed by: Juraj Herz. Starring: Rudolf Hrusinsky, Vlasta Chramostova, Jana Stehnova, Milos Vognic, and more. Written by: Ladislav Fuks. Running time: 100 minutes. Rating: Unrated. Released on DVD: March 31, 2009. Available at Amazon.com