Protector (2009 film)
|Directed by||Marek Najbrt|
|Produced by||Milan Kuchynka
|Written by||Robert Geisler
|Music by||Midi Lidi|
|Edited by||Pavel Hrdlička|
|Running time||100 minutes|
Protector (Czech: Protektor) is a 2009 Czech film directed by Marek Najbrt. It is a story of Hana and Emil Vrbata, a couple living in German-occupied Czechoslovakia, in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, during World War II. The general reception by the Czech press and the audience was extremely positive. It was selected as the Czech Republic's submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd Academy Awards.
It is 1938 and the Nazis are just one step away from invading and occupying Czechoslovakia. Hana is a young Czech film actress who also happens to be Jewish. She has just appeared in her first feature with her leading man, an older Jewish actor, who warns her that her career is over and that their picture will never see the light of day since the Nazis will never allow its release. He hands her a forged passport and papers to get out of the country but she throws them in the trash, not believing what he says about the imminent German invasion one bit.
As the filming of the 'film within a film' is on the verge of completion, we see the two actors riding stationery bicycles with a moving image in the background. As was the usual practice in creating films in earlier days, the illusion of motion is created when the moving image flickers in the background but the object in the foreground is static. Thus, the bicyclist becomes a symbol for the man who pedals furiously but is actually going nowhere. That man is the Czech everyman of 1938 who desperately wishes to escape his tragic circumstances but in reality remains motionless, trapped by the forces of tyranny. Throughout the film, we catch glimpses of the film's protagonist, Emil, pedaling furiously, superimposed over the screen's larger canvas.
Hana is married to Emil, a journalist, who is conscripted by collaborating Czech officials, to serve as a radio announcer for the occupying German forces. A colleague at the radio station, Franta, will not keep quiet and he is taken away presumably by the Gestapo and later executed. Emil, no hard core collaborator, chooses to accept the job working as the mouthpiece for the Nazis in order to save his wife from being deported to the death camps. Emil's boss at the radio station is a Nazi sympathizer who offers him the job with the agreement that no one will bother him about his wife as long as she remains holed up in their apartment.
Soon, Emil has become popular hosting a cultural program in Prague entitled "Voices of Our Home". Meanwhile Hana becomes bored sitting at home and jeopardizes Emil's position by leaving their apartment, usually attending the cinema. As Hana is depicted as narcissistic, she refuses to accept her position as a Jew in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. This leads to her almost being arrested at the cinema, ultimately leading to her first meeting with former medical student, now morphine-addicted projectionist,Petr.
As tensions arise, Emil begins having an affair with former colleague and former lover of Franta, Vera. Vera is now engaged to his boss, after dumping Franta for not being able to "listen." After figuring out Emil is having an affair, Hana beings seeing Petr more and more, as they both begin to take up the dangerous hobby of Petr taking pictures Hana in front of Anti-Jewish shop signs. He wants to go to bed with her but she resists his advances, eventually allowing him, however, to take pictures of her in the nude. At this point in the film, things slow down considerably as Hana is no longer talking to Emil with the conflict between the two principals, grinding to a halt.
The plot picks up when Hana's former co-star shows up at their apartment having just escaped from a death transport (it is revealed that his forged papers were discovered and he never made it out of Czechoslovakia). Emil is horrified that Hana allows him to take a bath in the apartment and throws him out on the street. Enraged at Emil for throwing her ex-colleague out, Hana dons her blond wig and adopts the persona of her character from her movie and crashes Emil's boss's wedding. Emil is on the verge of being fired for his 'transgression' when Reich Protector Heydrich is assassinated by Czech partisans. Nazi soldiers do a house-to-house search and discover Hana is in the apartment. When they realize who Emil is, they take no action against Hana, despite the fact that the soldiers know she is Jewish. Later the Nazis broadcast a description of a bicycle used by one of the partisans who has killed Heydrich. Emil has another affair with a ditsy gossip columnist and takes her family's bicycle back to his apartment and attempts to hide it; this leads Hana to believe that Emil has switched sides and is now helping the partisans.
Now Emil's boss orders him to prove his loyalty by reading a loyalty oath over the airwaves after the Heydrich assassination places all Czech citizens in jeopardy. Meanwhile, Hana has come down to earth after she escapes arrest during the house-to-house search. However, when Emil's second lover comes to Hana for help after she saw Emil get taken away, Hana realizes where the bike is truly from and believes that Emil was never on her side after all. She packs her belongings to go find Petr, ultimately ripping off her wedding ring. Unfortunately, she finds Petr completely under the influence of morphine and watching her first feature film. The Nazis hear the loud music and arrest him, with Hana barely getting away. After she has realized that there is nothing left to live for, she turns herself into the authorities. Emil decides not to show up at the broadcast to read the loyalty oath to go looking for Hana, riding the bike that is believed to belong to the man who assisinated the Reich Protector.
In the final scene, Emil finds her in a crowd of Jews being marched to the death transports; as he stands impassively with the supposed bike, preventing the group from marching forward, Nazi soldiers club him in the head, pushing him off to the side of the road. As he runs to meet Hana in the crowd, the two look at each other, knowingly and woefully. Emil is then attacked for the second time, as Hana is marched away into the distance.
Awards and nominations
- Users rating at csfd.cz "."
- Protektor, The Good Soldier among winners at Starz Denver Film Festival