The film will be based on the original Slovak novella "Ema and Death's-head Hawkmoth" (Ema a Smrtihlav).

The film Emma and Death's Head shows how fantasy and imagination can save a human life through Simon’s story, a young boy who lives between the real and dream worlds in order to overcome the cruelty of Nazi time.

The Holan family lives in multicultural Bratislava in the late 1930s. They lead an idyllic life. The father is Czech, and the mother is Jewish. Their sons, Simon and Leo, frequent both the church and the synagogue.

In 1939, following the establishment of the wartime Slovak state, Czechs find that they are no longer welcome in Slovakia, and the father is forced to leave his family. In 1942, the mother and sons risk deportation, and they, too, have to flee the country.

Young Simon finds refuge in the suburbs with his mother's friend and colleague, a Hungarian seamstress and widow called Marika Sándorfi. At first, the boy lives with her in the house, but he is later moved to the barn for fear that he could be found out. Marika and Simon's relationship is strained as a consequence of the boy's defiant nature and budding libido and Marika's overwhelming fear. Simon spends long hours locked in the barn with no means of entertaining himself. He begins to dream up a fantasy world based on pictures from magazines and an advertisement for a Nivea skin cream featuring a beautiful woman called Emma. The real world he inhabits is cruel and bleak. Here, Simon witnesses unimaginable violence. But on the sunlit beach with Emma, there is everlasting peace and quiet (ad slogan: Emma loves the sun!).

Marika starts receiving visits from a German officer called Heinz Lepke. At first, all he wants is a ballroom dress for his wife. Later, however, he develops a liking for the seamstress. In Simon's dream world, the beautiful Emma is being pursued by the evil General Death's Head. While Marika gives in to the German officer's advances because she fears that he might find out about Simon, the dream-world Emma defies the general, who eventually kidnaps her.

Marika gradually builds a relationship with Simon, but during a raid by Lieutenant Lepke, she inadvertently causes the boy to be found out. In the dream world, Simon is struggling to rescue Emma from Death Head's grasp. Lepke halts his soldiers and decides to take the boy aside and dispose of him on his own. He also saves Marika by telling the other Germans that Simon's been hiding in the barn without her knowledge.

After the war, in 1945, when Simon's parents visit Marika to retrieve their son, we learn that the German officer never really shot him.

When the Holan family goes to Marika's house somewhat later on, they find someone else living there. They learn that, during the removal of Hungarians which followed the war, she was executed by a self-appointed people's tribunal for being a supposed Nazi collaborator.


Story by: Peter Krištúfek (*1973 †2018)
Director: Iveta Grófová
Producers: Zuzana Mistríková (PubRes), Ondřej Trojan (T.H.A.)



Genre: Drama / Feature film
Country:  Slovakia / Czecchia
Co-Production: PubRes (SK), Total HelpArt T.H.A. (CZ)

Development & production supported by Slovak Audiovisual Fund.