Released By: Film Movement
Released On: 01/10/2012
Director: Marek Najbrt
Cast: Marek Daniel, Jana Plodkova
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Using the assassination of a high-ranking officer of the Third Reich as a key plot point in a love story may seem like a strange and deeply twisted idea. Somehow, however, Marek Najbrt has employed this historical event to great effect in his latest film Protektor, an off-kilter story of romance and role reversal set in Nazi-controlled Prague.
Jana Plodkova plays Hana, a movie star at the top of the A-List in former Czechoslovakia. Wined and dined by the elite of the entertainment industry and worshipped by the public, she may also be banging a few of her co-stars on the side; essentially living a life of luxurious celebrity. With a new film almost in the can, Hana is sure to become even more popular; something that her loving husband, the very drab radio announcer Emil Vrbata, is not exactly a fan of. Before the film can be released, however, Hana is discovered to be a Jew by the new occupants of Prague, Hitler’s SS.
Banished from working in film, Hana becomes depressed at first, and then brazenly defiant as she is forced to wear the star of David on her clothing, the new regulations in place banning her from her usual hangouts, including the cinema. Meanwhile, Emil is experiencing his own kind of celebrity, having been chosen as the new “Voice of the People” for the Reich-controlled radio station. Emil becomes the public figure that Hana was, and sets about living it up while keeping his employers happy by spouting the party line across the airwaves. Unfortunately for Emil, his new life is not all fun and games, with the SS watching his every move and his wife picking up a few new habits of her own that could get them both killed. When SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich is assassinated in what the Nazis believe to be a citizen-aided murder, Emil is forced to choose between his fame and his wife.
Despite the subject matter, Protektor is a surprisingly uplifting film, mainly due to the skill of Najbrt’s directing and an amazingly strong script. The cinematography shifts between stark contrasts and sepia-like montages, all managing to compliment the period of the film while highlighting the different paths that the characters take throughout the film. As a period piece, it works well because of excellent set design and costumes, and the two lead actors that carry the film do so in a completely convincing manner. Aside from a couple of very avant-garde sequences that take you out of the film for a moment, and some slight pacing issues, Protektor is an accomplishment as an exciting and thought-provoking film.
Protektor comes to DVD courtesy of Film Movement, a company who have made it their mission to release important foreign films from all over the world. The film is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer that looks great, with solid contrast and deep blacks. The transfer is pretty much issue-free, with no noticeable artifacts. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is also well done, with a good dynamic range and clear, audible dialogue and sound effects. The surrounds are used sparingly, but to great effect at key moments, although you won’t find your subwoofer bouncing too much.
Extras include a biography on Director Marek Najbrt, and seven trailers, one for the feature and six others for various Film Movement titles. As with the other Film Movement Titles, a short film is also included; this one is “I Was A Child Of Holocaust Survivors” a 15-minute animate feature from Toronto.
The Final Word:
Despite the darker subject matter, Protektor is a beautifully-done film that is definitely worth checking out.