May 04, 2021
Agnieszka Holland once again proves she is the real deal with this austere biopic of a faith healer in 1930s Czechoslovakia
Charlatan review – a fascinating, frustrating tale of bottled-up emotion
Only last year at Berlin, Agnieszka Holland presented Mr Jones: a big, brashly ambitious movie inspired by the life of Welsh journalist Gareth Jones, who proclaimed the truth about Stalin’s terror-famine in the Ukraine in the 1930s, when the liberal west had been content to overlook it.
Mr Jones has just been released in the UK and Holland’s work-rate is clearly prodigious, because she returns with another big period picture from Europe’s painful heart, torn apart by totalitarian ideology, this one scripted by Czech screenwriter Marek Epstein. It is intriguing, if a little frustrating: the lightly fictionalised story of Jan Mikolášek, the Czech herbalist and faith healer who became a cult figure in the 1930s. He treated rich and poor alike, accepting powerful Germans as his patients during the Nazi occupation and then communist officials after the war.
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