In the reclaimed Sudetenland after World War II, former RAF airman Viktor Chotovický (Petr Čepek) gets assigned to inventory and administer a large estate formerly owned by a Nazi war criminal. The former owner’s daughter, Adelheid (Emma Černá), is assigned to Čepek as a servant. A strange love affair grows between the two, against a backdrop of the bloody expulsion of Germans by the Czechoslovak government in the period after the war. Vláčil’s was the first film, and remains one of the few, to address this controversial chapter in Czechoslovak history. –AFI
Frantisek Vlacil was born in Cesky Tesin and spent his childhood and early adulthood in northern Moravia and Brno. His father was an attorney, but, at the end of World War I, after he returned from his sojourn with the Czech Legion in Russia, he remained in the military. His mother was Czech, but when she was six months old, her family moved to Russia. She returned to Czechoslovakia in 1919.
Frantisek started to display artistic talent at a very early age. After completing secondary school, he studied at the Philosophical Faculty of Masaryk University in Brno from 1945 to 1949, specializing in art history and aesthetics. At the same time, he was active in a Brno-based puppetry and animated film group as well as at a studio that produced popular scientific educational films. He became a permanent employee of the latter in 1947 and gradually became acquainted with all of the professions involved in production. In 1951, on the basis of a decree issued by Minister of National Defense… read more
Gorgeously lensed. His framing and photography of faces, especially those of the two principal characters, is alternately eerie and heartbreaking. When Viktor steps suddenly in frame to block the military official from approaching Adelheid—or the repeated close-ups of Adelheid agonizing over her circumstances—it's perfection.
Generally regarded within Czech society as an eye-for-an-eye consequence and just punishment for Hitler's occupation, ADELHEID was the first (and for decades only) film to question such a view and to criticize post-WWII treatment of the Germans by the Czechs or even present the subject. Directed by the brilliant Frantisek Vlacil (MARKETA LAZAROVA), the film has a meditative, poetic atmosphere and a few non-realistic elements: the expelled Germans dressed in black at the beginning of the film appear like ghosts in the mist, the house of the Nazi party official, where most of the action takes place, is rather presented like some mythical ogre's home from some ancient fairy tale.