For Reel

The Devil’s Trap (1961)
May 27, 2011, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Frantisek Vlácil

The first of Frantisek Vlácil’s three medieval films released during the 1960s (Marketa Lazarová being the most widely known), The Devil’s Trap is a stunning interpretation of the conflict between science and religion. A Jesuit priest arrives at a small, drought-ridden village in 16th-century Bohemia. Despite the conditions, however, a miller continues to prosper due to his studied observations of the land. The priest, confronting the miller, suggests that in looking at the ground he is simply a dog, whereas a man would look to the sky and be led by God. Hypnotically combining the realistic with elements of fantasy – a hollowed underground lair contains three suspicious paths – Vlácil is a remarkable stylist who uses point-of-view shots as evocatively as any of this contemporaries. In one, for example, he sways the camera back and forth to capture the point-of-view of a dancing girl racked with fear and suspicion.

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