Charlatan

By Alison True, March 22, 2021
"Charlatan" is one of the films shown at FLEFF this year, and delves into herbal healing.

“Charlatan,” a film by the Polish director Agnieska Holland, explores the life and controversies of Jan Mikolášek. 

Mikolášek was a herbal healer, his legacy a strange one. Ivan Trojan, a well-known Czech actor, plays Mikolášek alongside Juroj Loj, who plays Mikolášek’s assistant and possible secret lover. 

Mikolášek treated thousands of people, including the Czechoslovak president at the time. He faced trial for the deaths of several of his patients, and hid his possible homosexuality during his unique life.

Agnieska Holland received the script 5 years ago, but only was able to direct it this past year. The screenplay was written by Marek Epstein, who collaborated with HollandIt’s world premiere at the 2020 Berlindale Festival’s special gala. It was received well, and went on to many other festivals, including the Odessa International Film Festival and  the Moscow Film Festival. “Charlatan” was nominated by the Czech for the Oscars 2020 and was on the February Shortlist. The initial release was set for March 2020, but was pushed to August 2020 due to the pandemic.

During production, Holland described reading the script as “containing a certain secret.” She tends to get really invested in the characters, she describes, and felt drawn to the script because of the secrets of the characters. 

The film currently has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a site where anybody and everybody can review and rate films that they have seen. Variety describes it as “handsome, intelligently questioning but slightly dry.” The entertainment magazine cites a “zigzagging structure” as a concern regarding the film, especially if people do not understand how important Mikolášek was to the Czech government at the time.