8 Heads of Madness

The furious verse of Soviet dissident Anna Barkova finds its visual equivalent in the hyperactive visuals of Czech writer-director Marta Nováková, whose biopic divides the poet’s life into eight chapters and offers such flights of fancy as a mock-silent-film vignette, an imagined phone call from Joseph Stalin, and candy-colored scenes combining animation and live action. Barkova was adopted by the Bolshevik literary world as a young poet in the 1920s, but her growing denunciations of Soviet life turned the establishment against her, and from the mid-30s to the mid-60s she endured a series of exiles and imprisonments. When Nováková tries to dramatize Barkova’s grim life in the gulags, scenes of terror, privation, and rape collide head-on with the film’s sense of novelty. Pop singer Aneta Langerová stars as the poet. In Czech with subtitles.