BD 43 The Fifth Horseman is Fear

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Ribs
Joined: Fri Jun 13, 2014 1:14 pm

BD 43 The Fifth Horseman is Fear

#1 Post by Ribs » Tue Jul 20, 2021 2:04 pm

The Fifth Horseman is Fear
(…a pátý jezdec je Strach)

A film by Zbyněk Brynych
Czechoslovakia, 1964

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 film subverts its historical context, creating an expressionistic, thinly disguised allegory about communist Czechoslovakia - or indeed any totalitarian system - that is richly atmospheric and frighteningly real.

“A nearly perfect film... it is unmistakably the work of a master... a beautiful, distinguished work.” Roger Ebert

ON BLU-RAY & DVD AUGUST 2021

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senseabove
Joined: Wed Dec 02, 2015 3:07 am

Re: BD 43 The Fifth Horseman is Fear

#2 Post by senseabove » Tue Jul 20, 2021 2:55 pm

Excellent news!

Very curious whether Second Run can get ahold of the various bits of additional footage that have been discussed elsewhere on here and contextualize them.

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MichaelB
Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2006 6:20 pm
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Re: Forthcoming: The Fifth Horseman is Fear

#3 Post by MichaelB » Tue Jul 20, 2021 5:27 pm

I'm thrilled about this, because I know this has been very near the top of their wishlist pretty much since the label was first founded fifteen years ago - and I've never seen it in anything better than a fairly crappy DVD from an ancient analogue telecine (which is why they very sensibly waited).

But it's a properly astonishing film - as I wrote about it the last time I watched it:
This palm-sweatingly relentless study of paranoia and guilt is ostensibly set during WWII, but aside from the occasional low-key swastika on a poster and overheard radio reference to "the Reich" there's nothing that firmly dates the film in the 1940s: Dr Braun, the main protagonist, looks vaguely Jewish, but he's never explicitly identified as such (certainly not by the subtitles), while the men conducting regular random door-to-door searches are presumably Gestapo agents, but they could just as well be KGB, Stasi or their Czech equivalent, the StB. Which was presumably deliberate on director Zbyněk Brynych's part: he couldn't possibly have set the film openly in mid-60s Prague, but his target audience wouldn't have had any difficulty reading between the lines.

Dr Braun keeps himself to himself: forbidden to practice medicine for an unspecified reason, he works as what he calls "a warehouseman", a job that seems to involve cataloguing missing people's property (why these people are missing is never explained, and it's presumably best not to ask). He rarely indulges in more than the most superficial small talk with his varied and often garrulous neighbours, and lives in an almost bare flat with just a violin for company. With extreme reluctance, he's dragged into a conspiracy when a neighbour desperately seeks his help: a friend has been shot and needs urgent surgery, but he can't get it legitimately because he's a Resistance fighter or known subversive of that kind. Initially hesitant to the point of outright refusal, but clearly swayed by his long-suppressed vocation, Dr Braun removes the bullet and then sets out on a quest for morphine that dominates the film's mid-section and leads to its most hallucinatory set-pieces, initially in a bar, then an unnervingly white mental hospital.

It's hard to convey just how effective this film is at turning the screws on its audience. Brynych doesn't indulge in the kind of overt Expressionism that makes later Czech films like The Cremator so unforgettable, but almost every shot has something slightly skewed about it, whether it's someone framed just a little too off-centre for comfort, an unexpectedly sudden cut, or a jolting change of emphasis on the soundtrack. While Braun is the focus of attention when he's onscreen, we also get to know his neighbours well by the end, and discover (either directly or by implication) that they have guilty secrets of their own - in at least one case, that of being an informer. It seems a bit glib to draw parallels with Kafka, given that Prague was also his hometown, but this film catches his essence better than most direct adaptations that I've seen. It's riveting stuff, and I must keep an eye out for Brynych's other films, although I'm not sure if there are any others with English subtitles.
(I've since managed to see Transport from Paradise - courtesy of Second Run - and the early Cold War spy drama Skid, but that's it. There doesn't seem to be a huge amount of information about Brynych out there either - I suspect that, like Vojtěch Jasný and František Vláčil, he was just too old to get included with the Czechoslovak New Wave generation, even though his two best-known films are contemporaneous with theirs.)

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L.A.
Joined: Thu May 28, 2009 7:33 am
Location: Helsinki, Finland

Re: Forthcoming: The Fifth Horseman is Fear

#4 Post by L.A. » Tue Jul 20, 2021 5:46 pm

First Slovak Film Institute’s Night Riders and now this. Like a double-bill for the coming weeks. :D

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What A Disgrace
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Re: Forthcoming: The Fifth Horseman is Fear

#5 Post by What A Disgrace » Thu Jul 22, 2021 10:46 am

Specs according to Amazon...

• The Fifth Horseman is Fear (…a pátý jezdec je Strach, 1964) presented from a new HD transfer from original materials by the Czech National Film Archive.
• A newly-recorded Projection Booth audio commentary with Kat Ellinger, Jonathan Owen and Mike White.
• Two ‘lost’ sequences: the Italian Prologue, and the notorious Nazi brothel sequence that appeared in the 1968 American and Italian release versions of the film.
• Žalm (1966) - a short film by the renowned Czech filmmaker Evald Schorm to commemorate the tragic destiny of the Jewish people.
• 20-page booklet with new writing on the film by Jonathan Owen. • New English subtitle translation. • World premiere release

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Finch
Joined: Mon Jul 07, 2008 5:09 pm
Location: Edinburgh, UK

Re: Forthcoming: The Fifth Horseman is Fear

#6 Post by Finch » Thu Jul 22, 2021 4:19 pm

Lovely surprise! I had suggested this in the appropriate thread and seems like they finally got access to a transfer good enough for release.

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MichaelB
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Re: Forthcoming: The Fifth Horseman is Fear

#7 Post by MichaelB » Fri Jul 23, 2021 2:25 am

I think I first heard they were chasing this title way back in 2006/07, but the SD masters were shockingly poor back then. Sometimes the best option is simply to wait.


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Bikey
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2005 4:09 am

Re: BD 43 The Fifth Horseman is Fear

#9 Post by Bikey » Sat Sep 11, 2021 5:42 am

"Stunningly shot by Jan Kališ in black-and-white scope and featuring a haunting, sparse score by Jiří Sternwald, this tightly-wound film is a compelling experience right from the outset [...] the film is in fine shape and looks wonderful here with its original widescreen compositions coming across effectively throughout."
Mondo Digital

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