Studio: Film Movement
Directed By: Marek Najbrt
Written By: Marek Najbrt, Robert Geisler, Benjamin Tucek
Cast: Jana Plodková, Marek Daniel, Klára Melísková, Martin Mysicka, Tomás Mechaácek
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 7/27/11
Opens: August 5, 2011
What makes some citizens collaborate with an enemy occupying their country? In the case of “Sarah’s Key,” French police are seen arresting Jews, rounding them up and turning them over to the German transports. In fact, a large part of France known as Vichy was governed by Frenchmen, the excuse being that the French citizens are better off when some of their own kind are in power even if that means hobnobbing with the devil. In the Czech film “Protektor,” which was a candidate for the Oscars in 2009, a Czech man during the German occupation 1938-1945 agrees to deliver Nazi propaganda on the radio. His excuse is that he was doing this to protect his Jewish wife, a popular actress with a Jean Harlow look, who at least for the time being was not arrested and sent with the transports to the camps. In time he becomes almost like a rock star, garnering attention from young women seeking his autograph and more, even conducting a brief affair with the fiancé of the German official supervising Czech radio transmissions.
“Protektor” does not have the panache of Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” which features a Dutch woman infiltrating the Gestapo. Marek Najbrt’s film is more of a meditation filmed by Miloslav Holman partly in black-and-white, partly in color, using the bicycle as a metaphor throughout in that the Czech paratroopers sent from England who assassinate the top German official shoots him while riding a bike. The pedaling is, in the director’s term, a symbol of human faith. “The bicycle moves along, the pedals turn, however the question remains where it’s going to take you.”
Emil (Marek Daniel) and Hana (Jana Plodková) anchor the film as a married couple. She is a noted actress who at one point accuses her husband of envying her position, while for his part Emil hooks up with a top job as the German’s choice to broadcast propaganda on the air while she is removed from her job because she is a Jew. Power between Hana and Emil thereby shifts. Hana, a neurotic who is seen both with her own hair and with her Jean Harlow blond wig, is self-destructive, at one point actually jumping from the balcony and injuring herself, frequently turning up at the cinema to watch her own pictures. While Hana becomes bored sufficiently to carry on an affair with the projectionist, Petr (Toams Mechacek), Emil becomes disgusted with himself for being the tool of the occupation.
“Protektor” can be heavy going, given its bleached color and gray tones, though it nicely conveys the period: the universality of smoking, the double-breasted suits, and in the case of Hana and also several women who come on to Emil, the style of flirtation and social dancing during the early forties. Though the crowds of hapless Jews being sent to the camps, each carrying one bag, are on exhibit, the deportations are a minor theme of the film which instead focuses on the changing relationship of Emil and Hana.
Unrated. 103 minutes. (c) 2011 by Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online
Story – B+
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – B