Genre: Fantasy Drama
Director: Jan Nemec
Starring: Lindsay Anderson, Jitka Cerhová, Hana Kuberová, Josef Konícek
Duration: 71 min.
A series of loosely connected shorts comprised of three tales representing different aspects of love: temptation, dreams, and adventure.
Martyrs of Love is a film directed by Jan Nemec, co-written by Esther Krumbachová. It was his third and last feature film made in Czechoslovakia before the political repercussions of his previous effort, The Party and the Guests, got him banned from working and eventually forced out of the country. It premiered at the 1967 Locarno International Film Festival earning him the Special Mention Award.
Perhaps already sensing that he'd already gone too far, Martyrs of Love represents a total departure from the thinly veiled political satire of his other films. It's a collection of shorts, each of them exploring a different aspect of love through the surrealistic fantasies and imaginations of three separate characters. There is very little dialog here, Nemec relies mostly on the poetic imagery to tell each story. In that respect it is somewhat like his first feature Diamonds of the Night, albiet far less grim.
The first segment deals with temptation, and features a timid young desk clerk (Petr Kopriva) who dresses like Magritte's Son of Man. It follows a day in his life which eventually leads him to an upscale nightclub where he is too shy to approach anyone. Interestingly, there are brief cameos from Jitka Cerhová and Ivana Karbanová, who reprise their roles from Daisies; and British actor Lindsay Anderson makes a small appearance as well.
The second short is a young serving girl's (Hana Kuberová) erotic daydream. It's filled with lush imagery and hidden sexual symbolism as she fantasizes about falling in love with a rich noble, then a military general, and finally a gipsy guitar player. Famous Czech singer Karel Gott shows up in this as a wedding singer.
The last episode follows the adventures of a lonely man named Rudolf (Josef Konícek), he finds himself taken in by a bizarre hedonistic family who has mistaken him for someone else named Jakub. The weakest of the trio, it's essentially an absurd comedy sketch inspired by slapstick silent films, but is only ever mildly funny and feels very self indulgent.
All in all, Martyrs of Love is an uneven avant-garde work that fails to live up to the expectations set by Nemec's other films. It's worth a look if you are a completionist, or want to see another glimpse of the two Maries, but it otherwise doesn't offer anything monumental.
— Bonjour Tristesse