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Film / The Cremator

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The Cremator (original title Spalovač mrtvol) is a 1969 Czechoslovak film by a Slovak director Juraj Herz made from a Czech novel of the same name. The book was written by Ladislav Fuks.

Its main character is a Czech family man who is a head waiter and also moonlights as a cremator in 1938. Later he drops his job in a restaurant and dedicates all his time to the crematorium. His life is quite regular however political situation takes a dangerous turn as Czechoslovakia is in danger to be occupied by the Nazi Germany. Gradually the soul of Karl gives in to evil. He eventually commits things one would never believe he was capable of.



  • All Are Equal in Death: Invoked by dr. Bettleheim when Karel brings up this question asking whetherv the ashes of the people of various ethnicities are different.
  • Ax-Crazy: Karel begins to slowly lose his marbles over the course of the film, and it eventually comes to a head when he murders his son and tries to do the same with his daughter when his obsession with death finally reaches critical mass.
  • Alliterative Name: Karel Kopfrkingl.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: The party of the Nazi functionaries is quite graphic by the standards of the 60's.
  • Black Comedy: Gallows humour galore. Karel works in a crematorium and it is 1938-39, the time where Czechosloval independence became greatly endangered.
  • Bumbling Dad: Karel is frequently this especially in the first half of the film.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The situation in Czechoslovakia in 1938-39 is ever more gloomy. The tone of the film shifts correspondingly.
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  • Character Tics: Played for very Black Comedy. Karel casually first combs other people's hair with his comb then immediately combs his own hair with the same comb. As he works in the crematorium it is easy to guess whose hair he frequently combs before applying the comb to his own.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The iron bar once dropped by Dvorak. He invokes the trope saying not to remove the bar as it may be of service in the future.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Karel talks loudly about cremation in the restaurant where he works as a head water so that the eating customers can hear him.
  • The Corrupter: Reinke for Karel.
  • The Corruptible: Karel
  • Exact Words: Karl is ostensibly fond of his wife and says that he'd like to hang her on the Christmas tree as an angel. One can figure out the rest.
  • Expo Speak: Provided by Karel in the beginning.
  • Fourth-Wall Observer: Karel quite frequently looks directly into the camera.
  • The Hypocrite: Karel who pretends to a doctor who performs his blood analysis that he is a faithful husband but in fact regularly cheats on his wife with a hooker.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • For Strauss, the Jewish salesman who shares his surname with the several Austrian composers.
    • Also for Dvorak, the Jewish crematorium worker (played by the famous director Jiří Menzel), whose surname is also identical to that of a Antonín Dvořák. Both times it is lampshaded by Karel.
  • Motor Mouth: Karel speaks incessantly especially in the beginning. He gives out a lot of information making for Expo Speak.
  • Offing the Offspring:
    • Karel kills his son, Mili, that an iron bar.
    • Later he tries to kill his daughter but she escapes.
  • Opinion Flip-Flop: Karel usually repeats thoughts of the latest people with whom he for the moment has spoken.
  • Pet the Dog//Kick the Dog: Zigzagged. Karel is at times kind to his cat and pours her milk. At times he is fairly (though not excessively) rude to her.
  • Running Gag:
    • A couple attend a guignol performance with wax figures and the wife is always frightened when a new wax villain is revealed for Jump Scare. In the end the enraged husband leaves the theatre. Later the same couple is seen at the box match. The wife is constantly upset that two boxers hit each other. She is also afraid that they'll hit referee. In the end the wife, indignant that the people fight here, goes away with the husband. Later still Karel meets them at the cemetry and the wife once more is angry that the husband brought her to the place where there are deads. In the very end Karel meets the husband on the cemetry in the same place without his wife whom he somehow lost.
  • Shout-Out: The painting in the cabinet of the high-ranking Nazi party functionary has Hell panel from The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronimus Bosch.
  • The Stoic: Lakmé reacts stoically to anything that Karel pronounces.
  • Villain Protagonist: Karel.
  • Wacky Parent, Serious Child: Karel and Mili.
  • Wicked Cultured: Karel who knows Johann Strauss, Richard Strauss and Antonín Dvořàk and enjoys their music.

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