The first of Vláčil’s three Middle Ages historical-allegorical epics is set in a Bohemian village in the late 16th century. While the farmers struggle with the summertime drought, the local miller, using his knowledge of the land and the rudiments of science, has discovered and tapped an underground aquifer, and enjoys prosperity. His success is the object of envy in the village, and after a property dispute with the local government escalates into a feud, an Inquisition priest is sent to investigate allegations of diabolical dealings behind the miller’s seemingly miraculous success. –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
The first of Frantisek Vláčil’s three historical-allegorical films set in the Middle Ages already shows a filmmaker at home in portraying village life. A priest is summoned by a village to investigate the mysterious prosperity of a watermill. Even though the storytelling is tight, atmospheric and poetically framed, (one might even think somebody bargined with the Devil!) the tale doesn't amount to much contemplation.