Writers: Jakub Arbes and Jan Reiter
Director: Boris Orlický
A rare opportunity to see Boris Orlický’s 1921 silent film The Crucified, the 27th Made in Prague Festival brings this astonishing early movie to the UK with a new soundtrack composed by Dizzock & False Trance, recently commissioned and accompanying this Festival screening. Beautifully preserved, The Crucified is an early example of psychological insight on screen and formative horror tropes that prove as engaging as they are technically accomplished.
When military officer Karel (Karel Vysín) falls in love with Ruth (Natasa Cyganková), the daughter of a local Jewish innkeeper, the pair have a child who grows to be a healthy toddler. But away at war, Karel is unable to protect the girl from a baying mob who crucify her for her moral laxity which is observed by the boy. As young Jan grows up her is haunted by this vision of his mother which affects not only his mental health but the decisions he makes in his own career.
Orlický’s film is a fascinating exploration and application of cinematic approaches that contribute in meaningful ways to both character development and the darkening tone that The Crucified creates. Overlaying images is managed particularly effectively with the crucified live image of Jan’s mother frequently replacing the in-shot focus on impressions of Jesus’ crucifixion that appear thematically throughout the story in village squares, therapist offices and churches. The idea of the wooden crucified figure essentially coming to life as Ruth is deeply affecting for the man he becomes, shaping his life which Orlický brings to the screen with affecting clarity.
Orlický also applies some important colour tinting to his frames at pertinent moments using red and blue washes in particular to emphasise the violence in a film that blends both multiple experiences of military activity and war across the generations with the smaller, domestic-level violence perpetrated against Ruth early in the film. Likewise, Jan’s (Milousek Gröschel) inner torment and his experience in the city at night also takes on a meaningful resonance through the use of coloured tints makes this such an exciting example of early filmmaking.
Dizzock & False Trance’s soundtrack is rather unexpected, eschewing the orchestral style that may once have accompanied The Crucified, but instead attempts something more electronic and contemporary. It takes some time to get used to the style of the music and its insistence that explores the movements of intensity and drama well. Some may find it grating at times but across the 60-minutes of The Crucified, love or loathe the soundtrack, the power of this story and the skill with which it has been envisaged win out.
The Crucified is screening at the 27th Made in Prague Festival 2023.