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Made in Prague: Film & Literature

The 15th annual festival of Czech cinema in the UK explores a rich vein of literary adaptations for the screen. Focusing on the best examples of strong literary sources matched with visionary film directors, the resulting selection offers exceptional films from the history of Czech cinema, celebrating the literary work of sixteen outstanding Czech writers.

Made in Prague; Film & Literature
15th Czech Film Festival
10 – 27 November 2011

10 November 2011, Czech Cinema Gala Habermann, Prince Charles Cinema, London
11 – 13 November 2011, Riverside Studios
15 November 2011, UK Premiere of Vaclav Havel’s Leaving, The Gate Cinema
20 November 2011, silent movie Battalion + live music accompaniment, Barbican

With special guests – director Juraj Herz (Habermann, The Cremator), actor and writer Jiri Suchy (A Walk Worthwhile) and Dagmar Havlova, former first lady and actresss (Leaving).

The highlight of the festival will be the UK premiere of Leaving (2010), Vaclav Havel’s directorial debut with his own play. This intimate drama about the loss of power is full of humour and irony, and, to a certain extent, also reflects Havel’s own experience of leaving Czech presidential office.  The screening will be introduced by Dagmar Havlova, former first lady and the film’s lead actress.

A special tribute is paid to festival’s guest, director Juraj Herz whose 2010 film Habermann, (German/Austrian/Czech co-production), set in WWII and based on an actual story, addresses the taboo subject of the atrocities during the so called ‘wild transfer’ of Czechoslovakia’s German population.  Habermann is complemented by Juraj Herz’s 1968 masterpiece The Cremator, in which a professional cremator quotes the Tibetan Book of the Dead and offers deranged ideas for the salvation of the world

The filmic journey through Czech film and literature starts with the silent film Battalion (1927) by Premysl Prazsky successfully evoking the life of the poor and drop-outs of Prague which will be accompanied live by Jiri Hradil’s piano music. On the other hand the art film and modernist gem Marijka the Unfaithful (1934) by Vladislav Vancura, with Bohuslav Martinu’s original score, is set in the authentic milieu of Subcarpathian Ruthenia and presents a ballad-style story of love, betrayal and guilt.

The fifties are represented by a 1959 adaptation of Jaroslav Hasek’s Good Soldier Svejk, a Czech literary treasure. This famous story of a certified idiot and compulsive teller of banal anecdotes caught up in WWI was directed by Karel Stekly. Jiri ‘Closely Observed Trains’ Menzel directed the delightful comedy Capricious Summer (1967) in which the stagnant lives of four friends are shaken by the arrival of a magician-acrobat (played by Menzel himself) and his beautiful assistant. Nobody Is Going to Laugh (1965), also representing the 60s Czech New Wave, is Hynek Bocan’s adaptation of Milan Kundera’s short story about a young university lecturer who avoids telling unpleasant truths at all costs.  The season also includes a new take by director Milos Forman (One Flew over the Cuckoo Nest, Blonde in Love) on Suchy & Slitr’s 1965 jazz opera A Walk Worthwhile (2010) as staged by the National Theatre, Prague, which will be introduced by actor and writer Jiri Suchy.

Contemporary literature will be represented by Vladimir Michalek’s Of Parents and Children (2008), the successful adaptation of Emil Hakl’s award winning novel in which a father and son provide an insight into contemporary Prague, pubs and family history.  In contrast Ondrej Trojan’s Identity Card (2010) is a retro film set in the 70s, based on the novel by popular Czech writer Petr Sabach (familiar from Jan Hrebejk’s films Cosy Dens and Divided We Fall). The post-pubertal pranks of four boys are juxtaposed with the adult world as they deal with the totalitarian environment in their own way, sometimes with tragic consequences.

For information and images call Renata Clark 020 73075182; clarkova@czechcentre.org.uk

Organized in collaboration with the Riverside Studios, Prince Charles Cinema, Barbican Cinema, the UK Jewish Film Festival and The Gate Cinema.