Iva Janžurová has confirmed her acting mastery on the big screen numerous times. One of the seasoned actress’s most unforgettable characters remains her double-role in Juraj Herz’s costume psychological horror Morgiana. The director had given Janžurová a small part in his drama Znamení Raka (Sign of Cancer) (1967). The female lead in Petrolejové lampy (Oil Lamps) (1971) – the luckless Štěpa – foreshadowed further collaboration on Morgiana. Due to the advent of normalisation the loose adaption of Alexander Grin’s romantic novel Jessie and Morgiana was the picture that brought to an end Herz’s “stylised” period, the culmination of which remains Spalovač mrtvol (The Cremator) (1968). Janžurová, meanwhile, was forced to abandon the expressive shades of her acting register that she had been able to give free reign to in Morgiana (though the distinctive, Art Nouveau costumes and make-up did restrict the actress’s register). In the role of two sisters different in age, appearance and character – the younger, kind beauty Klára and the older, ugly and spiteful Viktorie – Janžurová created two utterly antithetical portraits. By contrast with the original book and genre convention, the viewer gradually begins to sympathise with the demonic titular character – in part because within Herz’s chillingly sarcastic, ambiguous conception the naive and good-natured Klára comes across as irritating and fake. The scheming Viktoria, jealous of her sister’s undeserved happiness safeguarded by the love of a handsome lieutenant (Josef Abrhám), is by contrast a vibrant and fascinating character and the audience will her on as she plans to kill Klára discreetly. Herz and screenwriter Vladimír Bor did not pursue the logic of the fact the story concerns one woman afflicted by a split personality; rather a “different” view of the narrative is provided by the eponymous hero – the black cat Morgiana. The camera work of the accomplished Jaroslav Kučera made a marked contribution to the visual appeal and artistic coherence of Herz’s noteworthy picture.
After the death of the wealthy Trengan, his wealth is divided between his two daughters – the older Viktoria and the younger Klára. The gloomy brunette Viktoria (known as Viki) has inherited an allowance, jewellery, estate and Green Flute Chateau, and Klára has been made heir to all the rest. As a result, Viki is jealous of her younger sister and can hardly conceal her hatred. The attractive blond Klára is the darling of society and many men are competing for her favours. Klára tries to persuade the notary Glenar, who has professed his love for her, to turn his affection to Viki. The man refuses and Viki, who is secretly listening to their conversation, comes to a final decision. She puts a slow-acting poison in her sister's drink. Klára, who has just fallen in love with the lieutenant Marek, is struck by a mysterious illness. She is permanently thirsty and bright colours pain her eyes. Viki moves to the Green Flute together with her favourite cat Morgiana. Hidden in the woods, she throws a stone at a group of maids who are bathing. One of the girls is hurt so badly that her neck will remain paralysed for the rest of her life. Viki throws the woman who sold her the poison and is now blackmailing her for half a million off a rock. An anonymous letter confirms the suspicion of the now already delirious Klára that she is being poisoned by her sister. The ill girl sets off for the Green Flute in the middle of night. Viki rejects her accusations and Klára escapes. A lecherous drunken tramp pours alcohol into Klára's mouth and the girl loses consciousness. Her loving suitor Marek discovers her in the forest. The now exposed Viki tries to stage a suicide attempt, but a draught causes her to really hang herself. Klára is saved by the alcohol, which has acted as an antidote, and recovers in Marek's arms.
statkářka Viktorie Trenganová zvaná Viki/Klára, Viktoriina mladší sestra
důstojník s monoklem
Eva, Markova příbuzná
rodinný lékař MUDr. Mayer
správce na Zelené flétně
služka na slavnosti u Evy
dubl za I. Janžurovou
dubl za I. Janžurovou
dubl za I. Janžurovou/balet
Alexandr Grin (Jessie a Morgiana – novela)
Rudolf Herz, Miloš Osvald, Jiří Rulík
15 September 1972
Festival: 9. mezinárodní filmový festival Chicago
Chicago / United States of America