(Release Info London schedule; May 7th, 2021, Curzon Home Cinema)
Jan Mikolášek (Ivan Trojan) is the epitome of a plomb and solidarity. He's talented, sensitive, assertive and enigmatic. In his youth and when he's older, regardless of whether he's in private or public, he's a man of action, reason and intuition. A faith healer. Just one glance at the urine bottle is enough for him to know what ails his patient. With fame comes fortune, and this at a time when 'Czechoslovakia' is a pawn in a game being played by the major power blocs. Protected and used by both 'The National Socialist' and 'Communist' regimes, he steps in wherever the system fails. But during the 'Post-Stalinist' years, the political climate becomes unpredictable and his special status is endangered. Along with his assistant František Palko (Juraj Loj), with whom, as the secret police are well aware, he has much more in common than herbal medicine, the charlatan finds his morals being put to the test.
Few true stories tread the thin line between good and evil as precariously as that of Jan Mikolášek, a '20th Century' 'Czech' herbal healer whose great success masked the grimmest of secrets. Mikolášek won fame and fortune treating celebrities of 'The Interwar', 'Nazi', and 'Communist' eras with his uncanny knack for urinary diagnosis. But his passion for healing welled up from the same source as a lust for cruelty, sadism, and an incapacity for love that only one person could ever quell; his assistant, František. As a show trial threatens to pry open these secrets and undo him, Jan’s dichotomies are put to a final test, with the fate of his life’s only love in the balance. A personal tale as replete with twists as the century itself, and a reflection on the price one pays for single-mindedly following one’s calling.
Based on the true story of Czech healer Jan Mikolášek (1889–1973), who dedicated his life to treating the sick using medicinal plants. He was a very famous healer, an unusual medicine man, who was using unorthodox methods of diagnosis and treatment. Throughout the war and turmoil of 'The 20th Century' he has to choose between his calling and his conscience. 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 the 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 him.
It's 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. The film tries 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. The film shows a human soul without entering into the depth of psychological analyses, express interiority through behavior. The faces of actors, the tension between the characters, their constant efforts to pass through the armors of each other are what drives the story forward; the background, the big History of 'The Twentieth Century' is reflected in their fate. "Charlatan" explores the link between the private and the political, and the relationship between the passage of time and the story of an unconventional individual.