Czech Republic, Ireland, Poland, Slovakia

Synopsis

The film is inspired by the true story of herbalist Jan Mikolasek, who dedicated his life to caring for the sick in spite of the immense obstacles he faced in his private and public life. Born at the turn of the 20th century, Mikolasek wins fame and fortune using unorthodox treatment methods to cure a wide range of diseases. Already a local institution in Czechoslovakia before World War II, the healer gains in reputation and wealth, whether during the Nazi occupation or under the Communist rule. One after the other, every regime will want to use his skills and in return gives him protection. But how high shall be the costs to maintain this status as the tide turns?

Directors Statement

Jan Mikolášek was a very famous healer, an unusual medicine man, who was using unorthodox methods of diagnosis and treatment. Those special skills made him not only well-known but also rich. In Czechoslovakia before World War II, he became some kind of institution and even during the German occupation he was able to preserve his status by healing high Nazi officials. He was sure that it would not be different after the war. The communists who took power were also humans. And humans fell sick, felt hopeless and needed a doctor; a special kind of a doctor as well, when others cannot help. But the situation changed when his main Stalinist protector died, and the regime decided to destroy him. He was too different, too rich, and too independent. CHARLATAN tells the story of Mikolášek’s rise and fall. Of his moral fall and of his constant fight with the darkness inside of him. It is the story of the mystery of a man, of the mystery of his special gift, of the prize he was ready to pay for it; the story of the paradox of strength and weakness, of love and hate. To tell this story with an epic scope - dozens of years, three different regimes, two World Wars – but one, that feels, at the same time, extremely intimate, I tried to find a sensual and minimalistic language. Static. Quiet. Spare dialogues. Hidden emotions. Extremely subjective passage of time: years are passing in few minutes, minutes are extended, feel like eternity. I tried to show a human soul without entering into the depth of psychological analysis, express interiority through behavior. The faces of actors, the tension between the characters, their constant efforts to pass through the armours of each other are what drives the story forward; the background, the big history of the 20th century is reflected in their fate. I was fortunate to have a wonderful group of people to make this film: cinematographer Martin Strba, production designer Milan Bycek, editor Pavel Hrdlicka, composer Antoni Komasa Lazarkiewicz, actor Ivan Trojan, all of whom I have worked with previously on the miniseries BURNING BUSH. They are an extremely creative, original, and courageous team, and they had a large part in finding a way to tell this story in a strong, personal way; to find images which I hope will stay with the audience long after the screening.

Director's Biography

Agnieszka Holland was born in Warsaw and has directed and/or written over 30 films in her illustrious career. She studied Directing at FAMU, the Prague Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts and started her professional life as assistant director for Krysztof Zanussi and Andrzej Wajda, for whose films she wrote several screenplays. Her directorial debut PROVINCIAL ACTORS was honoured by the International Critics' Jury in its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 1979. Her film FEVER won the Polish Film Festival as well as a Silver Bear as Best Actress for Barbara Grabowska in the 1981 Berlinale competition. Also in 1981, and shortly before the declaration of martial law in Poland, Holland moved to Paris. Her first film after emigrating, BITTER HARVEST, was nominated for an American Academy Award as Best Film in a Foreign Language in 1986. EUROPA EUROPA (1990) won a Golden Globe and a second Oscar nomination, this time for best original screenplay. In 1993, Holland made the first of many films in the US with THE SECRET GARDEN, produced by Francis Ford Coppola. IN DARKNESS (2011) earned her a third Oscar nomination. Her last two feature films, SPOOR (2017, winner of the Silver Bear for Innovation in the Art of Cinema) and MR. JONES (2019), were both selected for the Berlinale Competition. Holland has also directed many episodes of renowned TV-Series such as THE WIRE, THE KILLING, HOUSE OF CARDS and THE FIRST.
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Agnieszka Holland

Written by: Marek Epstein

Produced by: Šárka Cimbalová, Kevan Van Thompson

Cinematography: Martin Štrba

Editing: Pavel Hrdlicka

Production Design: Milan Býček

Costume Design: Katarína Štrbová-Bieliková

Make-Up & Hair: René Stejskal, Gabriela Poláková

Original Score: Antoni Komasa-Lazarkiewicz

Sound: Radim Hladík Jr.

Main Cast: Ivan Trojan (Jan Mikolášek), Josef Trojan (Young Jan Mikolášek), Juraj Loj (František Palko)

Casting: Katerina Oujezdksa, Heta Mantscheff, Ingrid Hodálová, Martina Götthansová

Nominations and Awards

  • EFA Feature Film Selection 2020