Martyrs of Love

(Mučedníci lásky)
Czechoslovakia 1967. Director: Jan Němec
Cast: Lindsay Anderson, Hana Kuberová, Josef Koníček, Petr Kopřiva, Jan Klusák

RARELY AVAILABLE! ► Surrealism, cinema history, and romantic fantasy mix and mingle in the trio of stories in Jan Němec’s dreamy, poetic Martyrs of Love, which proved to be the last feature he would make in his homeland for some decades. In the first tale, a shy young clerk, dressed like a figure out of Magritte, has daydreams of erotic encounters. In the second, a young servant woman fantasizes about being wooed by aristocrats and officers. The third episode, inspired by slapstick silent films, has an orphan imagining what it would be like to belong to a large family. “This three-part ballad, which often uses music to stand in for dialogue, remains the most perfect embodiment of Němec’s vision of a film world independent of reality. Mounting a defence of timid, inhibited, clumsy, and unsuccessful individuals, the three protagonists are a complete antithesis of the industrious heroes of socialist aesthetics. Martyrs of Love cemented Němec’s reputation as the kind of unrestrained nonconformist the Communist establishment considered the most dangerous to their ideology” (IK). “Lyrical ... If in Diamonds of the Night Němec filmed nightmares, here he captured daydreams, just as Buñuel filmed dreams” (Josef Škvorecký). B&W, 35mm, in Czech with English subtitles. 71 mins.

preceded by

Mother and Son
(Moeder en zoon)
Netherlands/Czechoslovakia 1967. Director: Jan Němec

Commissioned by the Amsterdam Film Festival and made without the approval of the Czechoslovak authorities, Jan Němec’s absurdist short about the doting mother of a sadistic torturer went on to win the Grand Prize at the prestigious Oberhausen International Short Film Festival. B&W, Digibeta video, no dialogue. 10 mins.

 

REVIEWS

"A clever, cinematic double-crosstic whose individual parts ultimately aren't as important as the complete quotation, which is a lyrical testimonial to movies."

New York Times | full review