Biographical, Drama, War
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From Czech director Robert Sedlácek (Rules of Lies, DFF30; Men in Rut, DFF33), this trenchant biopic follows student activist Jan Palach—who, on January 16, 1969, set himself on fire in Prague’s Wenceslas Square to protest the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia—during the final six months of his life.
Palach, a bright, charismatic student of history and philosophy at Prague’s Charles University, has no particular leanings toward radical heroism, it seems, as he traipses about from Kazahkstan to France to his family’s countryside home amid the promises of democratic reform set into motion by President Alexander Dubcek. But then comes the crackdown, and Palach returns to Prague to join his classmates in condemnation of the increasing violence by the occupying forces.
And then: nothing. Palach’s frustration only grows as malaise prevails among his compatriots as well as their supposed leaders, Dubcek included. He must take matters into his own hands. As Sedlácek told Radio Praha in a recent interview, “Palach’s act was directed at all of us, even at future generations. Even those who didn’t live through that time have to deal with it. And I want it to be everybody’s property.”
SUBTITLED (Foreign language with on-screen subtitles)