Saturday, May 05, 2018

Mlhy na blatech / Mist on the Moors (The Nitrate Picture Show)

František Čáp, Czechoslovakia 1943
Print source: Národní filmový archiv (National Film Archive), Prague
Running time: 93 minutes
E-subtitles in English (following the original translation from 1943).
Viewed at The Nitrate Picture Show (NPS), George Eastman Museum, Dryden Theatre, Rochester, 5 May 2018

NPS: "About the print

This print has been in the National Film Archive’s collection since the institution’s beginnings in 1943, so it’s certainly a deposit from this title's first distribution run. A new duplicate negative and acetate print were made in 1976, but the original nitrate remained in NFA’s care. Shrinkage: 0.8%

About the film

“Mist on the Moors examines fates of just about a few people. Their stories are outlined in a short space of time and are a symbolic representation of the drama of life, struggle for justice, human cognizance and the healing power of love. One of the most important components of the film is the nature, which ceases to be a mere stage for its plot—it serves almost as an autonomous plot agent. The movie landscape is a precisely defined and localized one. Only the South Bohemian ponds can serve as the right environment for development of such earthy and typically human stories as we encounter in the Mist on the Moors.”
– Kinorevue 10, 1943 (translated from Czech)" (NPS)

AA: Based on a novel by Karel Klostermann published in 1909, Mist on the Moors is a drama of social consciousness. The working people in the countryside are oppressed, and even fishing and hunting is illegal. Gamekeepers protect their masters' interests with an iron hand. When a gamekeeper spots a young farm lady on a forest path he routinely proceeds to rape her but the lady is rescued in the nick of time by a young poacher. There are many misunderstandings on who did what, and like in other films in this festival, parents are unable to read the young generation. In a society based on inequality and injustice it is hard to do the right thing but that is finally the morale of the tale. "Honesty is the best policy". "Clean conscience before God". "I'll do anything to deserve her".

A lyrical feeling for nature, a celebration of communal labour in haymaking scenes, and lovemaking in the haystack are aspects familiar for a Finnish viewer of films of the same period. Memorable are the fishing and hunting scenes, including a farmhand releasing a yelling deer calf from a poacher's trap. The gigging (tuulastus) sequence in the beginning is visually enchanting.

I hardly know the Czech cinema of the period. Certainly Gustav Machatý's pantheism comes to mind watching this early movie directed by František Čáp. Machatý, especially Extase, was by the way a major influence for our Teuvo Tulio. And for Ingmar Bergman to whose a handful of most influential movies Extase belonged. In Mlhy na blatech visual pleasures are provided by the leading man whose muscular, naked upper body is amply on display.

A luminous quality is enchanting in this vintage nitrate print.

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