This epic, long-form docudrama by acclaimed director Agnieszka Holland (made for HBO Europe as a three-part miniseries) chronicles the political, legal, and moral fallout that followed after Czech student protestor Jan Palach set himself on fire in protest against government repression in 1969.
Dramatic, detailed, and full of secrets, Agnieszka Holland's latest is a pleasure to watch. Made for HBO Europe as a threepart miniseries, Burning Bush is the story of Czechoslovakia at the height of political turmoil and personal betrayals.
In January, 1969, just months after the Prague Spring crackdown, a student protester sets himself on fire in Prague. With local authorities still fearful of Soviet leaders in Moscow, the secret police set out to squash any similar dissent. They also begin a clandestine campaign to discredit the dead protester, Jan Palach.
Over three eighty-minute parts, Holland weaves a web of conflicts among the student protesters, the police, the media, and legal professionals, all trying to advance their own interests while watching their backs. At the heart of it stands Dagmar Bure ová, a stylish young prosecutor seeking the truth on behalf of Palach's heartbroken mother. As a principled woman working in a legal system built on lies, loyalties, and trade-offs, Bure ová is constantly at risk. Her husband, a doctor at the hospital where Palach was taken before he died, faces a disciplinary hearing for his own unorthodox actions.
Burning Bush is based on a true story,
and Holland does remarkable work capturing
the era with authentic cinematic
detail. The production design and costumes
are pitch perfect for late-sixties
central Europe, and the fluid, graceful
camera movement lends both urgency
and beauty to the storytelling. This is a
real coup for Agnieszka Holland, and one
of the year's major achievements in longform
drama. So go ahead. Binge.