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THE EMPEROR'S BAKER

Czechoslovakia, 1952 (MIFF 1955, Programme 2)

Director: Martin Fric

This lavishly mounted and richly decorated Czech colour film is a blending of many diverse elements - fantasy, legend, satire and even political allegory. The film is linked with the Czech theatre through the person of Jan Werich, an outstanding actor and author of many Czech plays, who creates a dual role in the film and is part author of the script.

The story takes place at the Prague court of the Hapsburg Emperor, Rudolf II, in the 16th century. Passionately interested in magic, astronomy and alchemy, he leaves the reign of his kingdom to his courtiers who together with adventurers from all over Europe fill their pockets at the expense of the Emperor's treasury and his subjects.

The Emperor is searching for the legendary clay giant, "Golem", whom his creator had long ago hidden away. Matthew, a baker, who bears a strong likeness to the Emperor, is imprisoned on a charge of giving away the Court's bread to the hungry populace. He meets and falls in love with Katerina, the unwilling accomplice of a dishonest magician who attempts to hoodwink the Emperor.

Escaping into the Royal apartments Matthew is seen by the Emperor who immediately decides that the elixir he has just swallowed has rejuvenated him. The baker, who has discovered the secret of controlling the Golem's power, is accepted by the Court as the real Emperor and soon uncovers a plot by a group of courtiers intent on killing the Emperor and using the Golem's power for their own benefit. But the courtiers quarrel among themselves and destroy one another.

Matthew, the baker, finally reaches an amicable agreement with the Emperor, marries Katerina and uses the Golem to provide heat for the town's bakeries.

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