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A Dark Vision, in Paper Cutouts: Our Cremator Cover

A Dark Vision, in Paper Cutouts: Our <em>Cremator</em> Cover

Once seen, the opening credits of Juraj Herz’s pitch-black satire The Cremator (1969) are not soon forgotten. At the beginning of the handcrafted, collage-style sequence, a still close-up of the protagonist’s head, from the eyes up, takes over the screen, only to break apart in multiple directions, revealing new credits with each fresh rupture. As the titles continue to roll, a cascade of cutout body parts fills the frame, followed by still other split-apart heads. Thus Herz slyly acquaints the viewer with the deeply fractured psyche and macabre worldview of Karel Kopfrkingl (Rudolf Hrušínský), a crematorium manager in 1930s Prague whose mad obsessions with death and purity soon lead him to sign up with the ascendant Nazi Party. 

The opening credits of The Cremator

When it came time to commission a cover image for our edition of Herz’s film (available now), the Criterion art department had this section of the movie top of mind. The assignment promptly went to La Moutique—the design studio run by Ecuadorian-born, Brooklyn-based artist Juan Miguel Marin—an outfit that has made a specialty of wildly surrealistic, collage-based posters and album art, an aesthetic sensibility that had struck Criterion’s Eric Skillman as the perfect match for Herz’s brand of gallows humor. And right out of the gate, Skillman and Marin discussed the opening credits as a rich source of visual cues for the cover, “particularly the collages of cutout body parts juxtaposed with Karel Kopfrkingl’s equally eerie and charming face,” Marin says.

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