Thursday, August 4, 2016


Krakatit; science-fiction drama, Czech Republic, 1948; D: Otakar Vávra, S: Karel Höger, Florence Marly, Eduard Linkers, Jiří Plachý, Nataša Tanská

An injured man is in the operating room in the hospital. Delirious, the man recounts his life: he is Prokop, a scientist who invented "Krakatit", a new kind of devastating explosive in the form of dust. Just one gram can trigger a lethal explosion. Injured after an experiment with it, Prokop is healed by Dr. Tomeš and his daughter, Anči, in their home. Prokop gets an offer to sell the formula for Krakatit, but he refuses wealth in fear that the explosive might be used as a weapon in wars. He is persuaded to work in a laboratory for a royal family, and is even seduced by Princess Wilhelmina, but runs away and refuses to reveal the formula. Prokop looks at an explosion in the distance, caused by Tomeš experimenting with Krakatit in the laboratory. Finally, Prokop awakens in the hospital.

An adaptation of Karel Čapek's eponymous novel, Otakar Varva's (Sci-Fi) drama film "Krakatit" seems like a forerunner to the dilemma that awaited the world in modern times, since Čapek's hypothetical, obscure weapon of mass destruction in the 20s became an allegory of the nuclear weapons by the time of the film's premiere in 1948, exploring the doubts and fears of its inventor, Prokop, who fears it might lead to the destruction of humanity. This is exacerbated the most in the dark sequence of a secret gathering of various shady people in a basement, chanting how "democracy is corrupt and dead" and how they should force the smaller nation of the world into subjugation, mirroring the fears of what all this could lead to when Totalitarian dictatorships get weapons of mass destruction. Varva directs the film as a nightmarish, expressionistic film, with some scenes even wondering off into the abstract, making the viewers wonder what is real and what not (most obvious when Prokop strangles evil d'Hemon, who suddenly just disappears, revealing it to only be his own selfish self), yet it is way too long and overstretched, with several scenes that are heavy, lax and slow, or overburdened with symbolism. Some colors are brought by the lively supporting character of Dr. Tomeš (a great humorous sequence when he awakens the unconscious Prokop in bed, jokingly adding he already feared that Prokop was the "sleeping beauty" for sleeping so long), and the film needed more of these refreshing and spirited moments.


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