Voted the greatest Czech film ever made, this dark and passionate medieval epic chronicles the rivalry between two warring clans, the Kozlíks and the Lazars, and the doomed love affair of Mikolás Kozlík and Marketa Lazarová. Adapted from Vladislav Vanèura’s classic novel, this fierce 13th Century epic is a meticulously designed evocation of the period. Impressively ambitious and multi-layered, it is the crowning achievement of Vláèil’s career and is one of the great cornerstones of world cinema.
Chicago Reader review:
Czech filmmaker Frantisek Vlacil (1926-'99) may have been eclipsed in the West by his countrymen Milos Forman and Jiri Menzel, but his body of work from the 60s and 70s has earned him a solid reputation at home: Marketa Lazarova (1966), which kicks off a weeklong Vlacil retrospective at Facets Cinematheque, was recently voted the greatest Czech film of all time in a national critics' poll. Adapted from an experimental novel by Vladislav Vancura, it concerns the feud between two pagan clans that have fallen under the dominion of Christian German overlords in the 13th century. One clan has converted to Christianity, and its patriarch has pledged his virginal daughter Marketa (Magda Vasaryova) to a convent; the other, brutish and superstitious, abducts the young woman during a skirmish with its rivals. Episodic in structure, the film proceeds like a folk saga, but its flashbacks, flash-forwards, and abrupt cuts give it a hallucinatory quality. The iconography recalls Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible, Bergman's The Seventh Seal, and Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress, and the compositions can be bluntly symbolic and self-consciously arty. Yet Vlacil shot the film on location, insisting on historical authenticity, and his raw realism turns the countryside into a bleak hunting ground where new and ancient feuds settle into a tentative peace.
Here (and above) is the trailer.