The Cremator

Spalovač Mrtvol

Czechoslovakia, 1969, 95’

directed by: Juraj Herz

written by: Ladislav Fuks, Juraj Herz

cast: Rudolf Hrušínský, Vlasta Chramostová, Jana Stehnová, Milos Vognic, Ilja Prachar

cinematography: Stanislav Milota

edited by: Jaromír Janáček

production: Barrandov Studios


festivals and awards: 

Czechoslovakian entry for the 42nd Academy Awards – Best Foreign Language Film; Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival 1972 – Best Film Award, Best Actor Award, Best Cinematographer Award

Inspired by a novel by Ladislav Fuks, this iconic horror comedy is considered one of the best Czech films ever made. It takes place in Prague in the 1930s, during the radicalization of the political situation in Europe. It is a story about Karl Kopfrkingl, who works in a crematorium and is obsessed with Tibetan philosophy and body cremation. Karl believes that his job helps free the souls of the dead. Using every opportunity to find more and more work, he joyfully collaborates with Nazis. When told to apply his professional skills in a „secret project“ of the new regime, Karl is ecstatic because he has an unexpected chance to incinerate thousands of human bodies. The film is a satire about Czechs who collaborated with Nazis during the occupation. It was bunkered immediately after the premiere and could not be screened until the fall of the communist regime in 1989.

Juraj Herz was born in 1934, Slovakia. Herz is a Czech film director, actor, and set designer. He has directed for both film and television. His 1971 film Oil Lamps was screened at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival. His 1976 film Day for My Love was screened at the 27th Berlinale