Director: Agnieszka Holland
Runtime: 118 minutes
Cast: Ivan Trojan, Josef Trojan, Juraj Loj, Jaroslava Pokorná, Miroslav Hanuš, Jan Vlasák
Synopsis: Few true stories tread the thin line between good and evil as precariously as that of Jan Mikolášek, a 20th century Czech herbal healer whose great success masked the grimmest of secrets. Mikolášek won fame and fortune treating celebrities of the interwar, Nazi, and Communist eras with his uncanny knack for “urinary diagnosis”. But his passion for healing welled up from the same source as a lust for cruelty, sadism, and an incapacity for love that only one person could ever quell – his assistant, František. As a show trial threatens to pry open these secrets and undo him, Jan’s dichotomies are put to a final test, with the fate of his life’s only love in the balance. A personal tale as replete with twists as the century itself, and a reflection on the price one pays for single-mindedly following one’s calling.
From Oscar and BAFTA nominated veteran, Agnieszka Holland, comes a new film, Charlatan, which was shortlisted for Best International Feature Film in the 2021 Oscars. After the mysterious Spoor (2017), the compelling Mr. Jones (2019), The Wire (TV 2004-2008), Europa Europa (1990), In Darkness (2011), Holland presents a fascinating account of the power of charisma and the dangers it can pose.
Holland’s portrait of a Czech faith healer reveals a complex and fascinating history.
It is based on the true story of Czech healer Jan Mikolášek, who dedicated his life to treating the sick using medicinal plants. Throughout the war and turmoil of the 20th century, he has to choose between his calling and his conscience.
Mikolášek is played by acclaimed Czech actor Ivan Trojan, with his son Josef playing him in his early years. A personal tale as replete with twists as the century itself, Charlatan is a reflection on the price one pays for single-mindedly following one’s calling. It is scripted by Czech screenwriter Marek Epstein, with great art direction by Jiri Karasek, and outstanding cinematography by Martin Strba.
Charlatan is an intriguing story of Jan Mikolášek, the Czech herbalist and faith healer who became a cult figure in the 1930s. He treated rich and poor alike, accepting powerful Germans as his patients during the Nazi occupation and then Communist officials after the war.
Jan Mikolášek’s diagnoses seemed to be based on a blend of science and mysticism and he is shown as a conflicted man – impatient, incredibly demanding both in his work and in his covert gay relationship with his assistant, Frantisek (Juraj Loj).
It is a breath-taking story of a man gifted with exceptional abilities, set against the background of the events of the totalitarian fifties.
Streaming on Curzon Home Cinema
Images courtesy of AX1 Entertainment