The Fifth Horseman is Fear
This is the “nearly perfect” film by director Zbynek Brynych, “The Fifth Horseman is Fear.”
The part of “trauma” in this film connects well to what we talked about in unit 3. Unit 3 was all about slaughter and trauma, including the holocaust during World War II and Rwanda genocide in the 90s. This film depicts the life of common people under German occupation of Czechoslovakia during World War II, and their trauma living under this authority. The “fear” in the title has already reflected this trauma–everyone should follow the rules set by the Germans, and they would face serious consequences if they broke the law. For example, the Jewish doctor in this film was not allowed to practice any medical treatment to anybody according to the Germans, and he lived under great fear and trauma after he operated on an injured man.
The single one word I would use to describe this film is “unsettlement”—it creates so much tension in every single picture and sound track, that sometimes the viewers would feel that intense emotion so strongly. The emotion of fear is very strongly displayed from the beginning to the end, with especially strong intensity in the last fifteen minutes. When the police came, viewers can see the characters’ purposeless pacing, the tight facial expressions, the effort of trying to stay calm, the constant movement of wiping sweat from faces, etc. The viewers would slowly be brought into this intense fear, and when they see the eccentric informer character, Fanta, sneakily peaking from his window, they will also feel the fear that Fanta seems to know their secret. Thus, when the end happens in a sudden, the emotion viewers feel is first, relief, and then sympathy toward this tragedy—they are so deeply involved in the emotion of fear that they didn’t even realise.
The other important element in the film is the sound effect. The background music is always harsh and irritating, with very high pitch and rough sound, setting the unsettlement atmosphere. Surprisingly, though the music and sounds are always irritating, they have certain rhythm. For example, the music in the nightclub is a perfect combination of music and picture. The camera moves around the crowd, following the rhythm of the music, and randomly catching faces in the crowd. This scene, aside from the delicate picture of the characters’ nervousness, is the most artistic part of this film. The sound in the beginning of the film and the sound in the end are almost identical—the repetitive switch of high-pitch music and rough, harsh sound of machinery. This seems to show that even Doctor Braun did something virtuous, this world is still the same, and nothing of the crimes and sins will be corrected, which explicably tragic.
The film itself is truly a masterpiece of depicting certain emotions by sound, music, and close-up shots. Few films can make me involved in its emotion, but this one did it. The coexistence of harshness and rhythm in the music is also truly remarkable.