The great Agnieszka Holland’s portrait of a Czech faith healer reveals a complex and fascinating history.
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.
Mikolášek is played by acclaimed Czech actor Ivan Trojan, with his son Josef playing him in his early years. After the mysterious Spoor and compelling Mr. Jones, The Wire alumni Holland (Europa Europa, In Darkness) presents a fascinating account of the power of charisma and the dangers it can pose. A personal tale as replete with twists as the century itself, Charlatan is a reflection on the price one pays for single-mindedly following one’s calling.