Judicial manipulation, secret service games, physical and mental torture, blackmailing of witnesses, covering up the truth, massive propaganda, covered-up evidence, abuse of power, of law and justice… All this comes together in the longest unresolved case in the Czechoslovak judiciary that began on a sunny day in 1976. In the criminal records it is referred to as CERVANOVA CASE.
Who are those sentenced? Who are those who made the ruling in the longest and most controversial criminal case Slovakia has ever seen? Who are the actual witnesses and those labeled by police as witnesses? How come those who should be riddled with guilt and keep quiet – are speaking out, while those certain of their guilt don’t want to speak out?
These and many more questions are posed by the long-awaited Slovak documentary tragedy titled NORMALIZATION. The film explores the shocking behind-the-scenes events of the longest running case in the history of the Czechoslovak judiciary that began in 1976, when a body of a 19-year old student of medicine, Ludmila Cervanova, was found in river in the middle of a small village in Western Slovakia. The girl was drowned alive and although there were no traces of violence found on her body, yet the police claimed she had been raped.
It was a case that was paraded in the communist mass-media at the end of which seven men were found guilty of this heinous crime. They are the same individuals who today proclaim their innocence and claim that they were caught up in the middle of a grand-scale political-judiciary conspiracy.
The film is a detective story made by well-known Slovak documentary director ROBERT KIRCHHOFF which has taken eight years. He ventures into the dark depths of this unresolved and highly covered-up case of kidnapping, rape and murder of a young woman, which has also important political context. The case is familiar to perhaps everyone in Slovakia.
In the film Kirchhoff delves into the strange and shocking circumstances of the case, uncovering secret files, intelligence ploys of the communist police and the political elites. He interviews witnesses who have never appeared in front of the court. He brings to the surface hard to believe facts and new findings about this case - one of the biggest traumas of Slovak justice. Last but not least, he recounts the life stories of seven men accused of the murder for whom the case has become a life-long burden and never ending nightmare.
The crime becomes a means to portray the mechanism of fear, absurdity and a strange way of directed fate – spanning the era of Normalization to this day.
Director ROBERT KIRCHHOFF about the film
"Eight years ago I decided to document the trial with the alleged murderers of Ludmila Cervanova. I found out that this case is made up of a peculiar chain of events that have impacted the lives of several dozens of people. I was interested in all the unanswered questions – either direct or indirect. I was interested in the truth. I did not want to make a reconstruction of a criminal case. I was after the universal portrayal of “crime and punishment” with a strong political subtext. This film does not have the ambition to find the real killers or to be about proving someone’s innocence. I did not want to blow the case wide open. This is for the courts to do. This never-ending and mysterious case captures the story of our country, the structure of power. It illustrates the period know as the Czechoslovak normalization. Even though long gone, its protagonists remain impervious to time and social changes."