2013, Movies, TV

Horici ker [Burning Bush] (2013, Agnieszka Holland)

Burning Bush is a 21st century version of those unaccountably good European TV mini series which are released in North America as films (often in abridged form). Though we have been living in a golden age of television in North America since right before the beginning of this century, it wasn’t always like that here. But it has been like that in Europe for quite some time – various European countries have been making quality adult mini series for decades. However we have to go out of the way to get our hands on them. My understanding is that, when Burning Bush was shown in theatres (or maybe on TV) here, it was abridged, like so many of these mini series in the past, which is a shame. Fortunately, you can watch the whole thing on DVD.

Though this film is based on a historical event, I have reason to suspect a fair degree of liberty has been taken with some of the details of the characters. Though set in the late ’60s, the lead lawyer particular feels very modern. But I’m not sure these liberties detract from the story, which is well told, albeit conventionally told.

What is that story? In 1968, a Czech student burned himself to death to protest the invasion. (Others did so too, though he was most famous, apparently.) The next year, his mother sued a member of the government who had publicly claimed it was a stunt and he didn’t really burn himself alive. Though I have never lived through anything like that invasion, the film does a good job of getting audience members like me to be able to feel what it must have been like to live through something like this.

The movie uses legal drama tropes to set out expectations a certain way and then the truth of the story hits that much harder.  Though the film is fairly conventionally told, the story is powerful, the acting is good and it does feel as though it is a story that should be remembered and I suspect it will remain relevant for as long as people are dying as martyrs and as long as legal corruption exists (i.e. forever).


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