Dir: Agnieszka Holland, 2020 Czech Republic, Ireland, Slovakia, Poland, 118 min, Cert: CLUB
A brilliant, self-taught Czech healer who cured millions with herbal medicine is threatened by the Communist authorities in the late 1950s in Agnieszka Holland’s freely inspired biopic 'Charlatan.'Who today has heard of Jan Mikolasek (1887-1973), once revered as a celebrated faith healer who is said to have helped millions (including the Communist president of Czechoslovakia and Nazi bigwig Martin Bormann) with his herbal remedies? A figure of blinding light and darkest shadow, he springs ambiguously to life in director Agnieszka Holland’s fascinating period drama Charlatan, in a dazzling perf by top Czech actor Ivan Trojan. Though shot in the most classic of idioms, the film commands attention with its mesmerizing performances and lively cross-cutting between key moments in the hero’s life. Playing out of competition as a Berlinale Special Gala (the director’s 2017 feature Spoor won Berlin’s Silver Bear), the Czech-language drama should make an appealing festival and art house entry.
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