A Jewish physician in Nazi-occupied Prague is compelled to work cataloguing the homes and possessions of his countrymen as they are displaced to designated ghettos. When he helps an injured resistance fighter, he is plunged into a moral and ethical dilemma, and begins a nightmarish odyssey to help save the man. Focussing on the intense anxiety, paranoia and terror prevalent in a fascist state, Zbyněk Brynych’s The Fifth Horseman is Fear subverts its historical context, creating an expressionistic, thinly disguised allegory about communist Czechoslovakia – or indeed living under any totalitarian system - that is richly atmospheric and frighteningly real. (Second Run)


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English "Daddy, who is a hero?" - "A person who died in vain. Unlike others who live in vain." When I recently reviewed Brynych's Transport from Paradise, I wrote that it is probably his best film. But I still hadn't seen this film, which I consider to be the real peak of his work from that moment on. This film has several common elements with Transport from Paradise, and you can see that it was created by one creator in one creative period. Black-and-white images, interesting camera work, expressively resonating scenes, and the tragedy of people in a hopeless situation. However, this film better utilizes its space, and there are no long empty shots. Even the Prague streets without people have meaning and evoke a feeling of claustrophobia and a sense of real threat. Brynych's protagonist, excellently played by Miroslav Macháček, is an unhappy man in the wrong place. A Jew in Protectorate Prague who knows well where everything is heading and, thanks to his intelligence and scientific analytical thinking, has no illusions about his fate. He tries to distract himself from the gloomy reality by carefully performing his work and taking care of confiscated watches at the relevant occupation office. One day, he is presented with an opportunity to help an injured resistance fighter and in a way, take revenge on the regime and show his humanity one last time. The film is excellently cast and there are very few similar films where a lot of famous names from Czech cinema appear in episodic roles on such a small stage. In the confined spaces of a Prague tenement occupied by the Gestapo, the human characters are also very well exposed, once again overturning the instinct of self-preservation and fear in all possible forms. I only have one remark - life has taught me that people under pressure often behave completely differently than in times of ease, and you are often disappointed by the one you least expect. Here, the weak link is clear from the beginning, and the director, or rather the screenwriter, does not hide any surprises for us. Overall impression: 85%. ()

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