Craziness in the form of an allegory!
Screenplay By: Ladislav Fuks & Juraj Herz
Directed By: Juraj Herz
A journey through the mind of a macabre and twisted individual. Or, a journey through the mind of the political figure who set Germany on fire in the 1930s-40s. Both of these statements are true regarding Spalovac Mrtvol, and they speak to why the film has a horrific quality to it. Yes, there are moments of macabre imagery peppered throughout Spalovac Mrtvol. But, it is in the trek through the increasingly unhinged mind of Kopfrkingl that Spalovac Mrtvol shows its true colors. This is a film that is studying the horrors of a human mind gone astray, and how even the simplest of thoughts can take on new meaning inside such a mind.
Kopfrkingl is an obvious allegory figure. He is Adolf Hitler through and through, his decisions parallel those of Herr Hitler in many ways. It is this element of Spalovac Mrtvol that is interesting and at the same time troubling. The connections made are interesting and the journey through the mind of a crazed cremator is interesting. At the same time the film pins much on the idea of Herr Hitler being crazy. I’m not in agreement with that interpretation of Herr Hitler’s actions. It is his humanity, and the fact that he was quite sane that made his actions more deplorable than simple insane driven genocide. Spalovac Mrtvol seems to miss that, instead opting for the all too easy allegory of Herr Hitler as a crazy man who was lost inside his own head.
The film is at its best when it doesn’t focus too much on its allegorical content. Spalovac Mrtvol worked for me when it presented itself as the journey through the crazy mind of a simple man. The willingness of the director, Juraj Herz, to go along with the delusions and the fever dream state of Kopfrkingl is what gives the film its distinct flavor. The film feels out of focus for pretty much everything that comes after the first ten minutes. It is during that time that camera angles are played with, and the line between reality and delusion is sufficiently blurred.
I’m sure that for some people the allegorical content of Spalovac Mrtvol was spot on. For me it missed the mark by a slight margin. I enjoyed Spalovac Mrtvol, and I was engrossed in the methods Juraj Herz used to convey the worsening state of Kopfrkingl’s mind. At the same time I was put off by the simple nature of the Adolf Hitler allegory, or parallel if you will. And, I felt that the film wasted too much time making that connection and not enough time exploring the depths of its lead characters descent into madness. Spalovac Mrtvol is a good film, but it’s not a horror film that I’d recommend horror buffs go out of their way to see.