29 March 2011 | Simonster
Could have been great, is merely good
Viewed at the Festival de Cannes 2010
Protektor was the Czech Republic's official submission to 82nd Academy Award's Foreign Language in 2010. It didn't win.
Okay, if you want to know the plot go read the IMDb summary, that's what it's for. But if you can't be bothered: Czech radio journalist Emil starts to collaborate with the Nazis to protect his Jewish actress wife, Vera.
But Protektor is no Schindler's List and on the scale of Holocaust-themed films it comes way down, being essentially a relationship drama. His career takes off and hers, well, is over and if she's not careful, so is her life. But the unforgivable flaw with the film is that there is no tension here, no atmosphere. Everything unfurls in a drawn out and typically central European narrative manner. The film is simply flat and dull.
To make matters worse is the character of Vera, who is, quite simply, a preening and self- obsessed egomaniac. Don't think for a moment I'm saying she deserves what she gets because she is Jewish. But she does deserve everything she gets she embarks, among other things, on a highly visible and dangerous affair and then adopts on a course of behaviour that is quite literally suicidal. It is impossible to like or even sympathise with such an unpleasant individual.
Protektor wants to examine how people react under such circumstances but it fails with Emil too. The character is never properly defined. Does the film wish to say that many people also drifted into collaboration as opposed to embracing the enemy with love at first sight? I suppose so, but the director busks around the subject in such a way that his intent is never clear.
Visually, in terms of sets and costumes, camera-work and lighting, Protektor looks great. But unless you're a completist or fan of Central European cinema, or just want to see why the Czech Republic didn't take home the Academy Award, there's no real reason to see this film.