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MARIJKA NEVERNICE (Marijka the Unfaithful) (1934) * with switchable English subtitles *

Vladislav Vancura Writers: Karel Nový, Ivan Olbracht | 1 more credit » Star: Hana Maria Pravda
$13.99

Shot on location in Subcarpathian Rus in 1934, this Czech docudrama with noticeable similarities to Soviet neo-realist works of the time uses the local population as cast members to tell the story of the backwardness of the highlanders; the exploitation of the them and the peasantry by savvy middlemen; and the Jews, who exploit the ignorance and poverty of them all.

The title character, Marijka, a work-shy peasant, gets involved in an extramarital affair with another man, while her husband Petro is out felling logs under the guidance of a smarmy and sleazy foreman, who takes pleasure in both fleecing the simple mountainfolk and pushing around the local Jewish storeowner. Making sexual advances at his daughter, the father, despite witnessing the unwelcome behavior and his daughter's extreme discomfort, does absolutely nothing to stop it, because he's afraid of losing a customer. For his part, the shop owner has Petro in the palm of his hands, courtesy of his "book", which lists all of the highlanders' debts. He uses this leverage to eventually kick Petro, Marijka and the family out of their home so he can convert it into an inn and give it as a wedding present to his daughter (but not before buying the cooperation of one of his debtors, Petro's foreman, who, in consideration for having some of his own debt discharged, will fire Petro and make him destitute; thus ensuring Petro's inability to pay the creditor and the house falling into receivership for non-payment of the money owed the Jew).

The director's attempt to give the film a more realistic feel by not using professional actors and relying on the talents (or lack thereof) of the locals doesn't permit for any deep emotional portrayal of life in the most backward of regions in prewar Czechoslovakia (and, to a large extent, still the most backward part of western Ukraine), but what the film lacks in melodrama it makes up for in "believability". Anyone with a decent knowledge of the people, history and culture of southeastern Poland, western Ukraine or far-eastern Slovakia will not only recognize the landscapes, cultures and traditions of the peoples shown in this film --- for they are similar in all three locations, even to this day --- but will see confirmation of what they've already learned in the stilted acting of the locals in the movie. Herein, though, lay disturbing revelations about life there that may lead to even more disturbing questions: Though the film is doubtless a thin-plotted drama, making no pretensions to be true, did the filmmaker himself take advantage of the locals' naivete to show them in an unflattering light? Was the avarice and anti-social behavior of the town's Jews to their gentile neighbors a reflection of reality or a bow to widely held anti-Semitic beliefs, now expanding and being expressed more openly in the 1930s? And whether it was reality or not, did the town's Jews take part in the story not realizing how this portrayal could contribute to the impending tragedy no one could imagine at the time? Was it not a problem, because, even if it had been slightly exaggerated, it was simply reality? Or was the money paid them -- and others in the film -- sufficient enough to ignore any inaccuracies?

In a world where most western societies have become perhaps too politically correct and inclined to gloss over, ban or outright dismiss portrayals of a lifestyle offensive to the harmony of the whole, Marijka Neverice is problematic in both its revelation of old stereotypes and in its showing them without making any attempt to confirm or deny their accuracy. The film lets the viewer decide for himself whether what he's seeing conforms to historical reality or his own prejudices. For those who consider the movie historically accurate, the film goes a long way in confirming already-held beliefs. For those who reject it as being manipulated, historically inaccurate and/or intentionally hostile, the film will be offensive, obscurantist, anachronistic and irrelevant. Whatever the opinions, Marijka Nevernice will leave the introspective viewer with more uncomfortable questions than answers.

DVD-R is in Czech, Yiddish and "local dialect" with switchable English subtitles.  Approx. 73 mins.  See video sample for picture and audio quality!

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