The Cremator  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

"The owner of a crematorium, through the influence of Nazi propaganda and oriental philosophy, becomes a maniac, who murders his entire family to "cleanse them" by death."

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Cremator (Spalovač mrtvol) is a 1969 Czechoslovak horror comedy/drama film directed by Juraj Herz, based on a novel by Ladislav Fuks. The screenplay was written by Herz and Fuks. The film was selected as the Czechoslovakian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 42nd Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee. In 1972, it won the Festival de Cine de Sitges Best Film award, where it also received awards for its star Rudolf Hrušínský and cinematographer Stanislav Milota.

The story is set in 1930s Prague, where the cremator Karel Kopfrkingl lives and works. The story combines features from black comedy and horror (comedy horror). It is often recognized as a follower of German Expressionist film and also as an example of the Czechoslovak New Wave. The film was banned after its premiere in 1969, and remained in the vault until the collapse of the communist system in Czechoslovakia in 1989.

With a 90.2% score on the Czech and Slovak Movie Database as well as praise from movie critics, The Cremator is often considered to be one of the best movies ever made in Czechoslovakia. It has also gathered a prominent cult following.



The movie takes place against the backdrop of the political radicalization of Europe during the 1930s, more specifically the demise of the golden era of the First Czechoslovak Republic and the establishment of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia under Nazi Germany. Spiritually, the movie takes place in the aftermath of the death of Thubten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama in 1933.

Karl Kopfrkingl works at a crematorium in Prague. Obsessed with his duties, he believes he is not just cremating the dead, but liberating the souls of the departed. With Nazi forces gathering at the Czech border, he descends into a mania that allows him to enact his disturbed beliefs.



The Cremator was director Juraj Herz's second feature film. The film is based on a novel by Ladislav Fuks Spalovac mrtvol ( The main character is played by Rudolf Hrusinsky, an actor previously known for his comedic role as the soldier in Josef Svejk Dobry Vojak Svejk and Pslusne Hlasim.


Adam Schofield, writing in A Black Pearl of the Deep: Juraj Herz's The Cremator stated that audiences unfamiliar with Eastern Europe's political past could "surely enjoy it as a work of black comedy or psychological horror" as it was a "ingeniously orchestrated film, full of complexities, and capable of giving the horror genre a better name." Herz commented that the films reaction were different in every country, noting that "In Prague, people were depressed; in Slovakia, they laughed; in the Netherlands, it was a comedy from the beginning to the end"

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Cremator" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools