CzechMate: In Search of Jirí Menzel (2016) - full transcript

It's my job.
That's how I make my living.

That's all.

Film is my job.

Sometimes it is fun,
sometimes not so much.

Sometimes it works out,
sometimes it doesn't.

But I don't have any
special sacred relationship to it.

It is my job.

That's all!

So... Come on down!
I should introduce myself.

Hello! My name is Milota.

To the left, and to the right.

Good afternoon!
I see you managed to find me.

Let's go!

They shot with me last year
and some part got lost,

so they came back from India
to shoot a short interview.

It's like an old castle here.

- Is that you?
- Hello!

They're shooting us hugging here.

He wants me to keep going
in and out of the door, to and fro.

Who is it, who is it...

So, we can start.

This is our guru.

Jean-Claude Carrière.

This house.

And it was fun because Greta Garbo
planted some orange trees in the garden,

so every morning we had orange juice.

Jesus! I must have been strong.
Very strong!

I was a very strong boy.


Hello, cat!

Hold on... Now I have to pull it out.
You see? These are pictures from my films.

I have to separate them.

This is the first one, somewhere here.

Ah, Yes.

The students are worthless.
They shoot nonsense

they film bullshit

using the state's money

wasting our time.

It's a useless school.
They should shut it down!

Fuck Stalin!

Pete's a dope.

He wants Bela.

Just to add another notch on his belt.

I collect hands

he collects notches...

We all do our best.

Hands, a strange human form...

They can't lie.

They don't know how to pretend.

My sweet...

This is the blessed spot
where we met 17 years ago.

Only the leopard is new.

Kind Nature long ago probably
relieved the other of its shackles.

Do you think it's freedom
you've been striving for?

I don't know.

- You attempted suicide...
- That's my business.

- You really think so?
- I don't know.

All I know is that I'm all right.

It's all nonsense anyway.

What's the matter, miss?

Why are you crying?

The winner is Czechoslovakia for
Closely Watched Trains.


Accepting for I Even Met Happy Gypsies,
Aleksandar Petrović.

I am very happy that Americans

like Czech films.

Thank you!

He did say that
Closely Watched Trains won

but you could hear
from the loudspeakers

that a Yugoslavian film won.

And my colleague, a Yugoslav,
a close friend, Petrović,

well, when he heard a "Yugoslavian film"

he started to get up from his seat because
he thought he was getting an Oscar.

And then he heard
Closely Watched Trains.

So he sat back down
as if he'd had a stroke.

You know, in some way,
it's a perfect film.

There are not too many.

You can always say
something is too long or

some scene is not exactly
what it should be.

In Closely Watched Trains,
it's very hard to find a weakness in that film.

The rhythm is perfect and...

I think I would put it in
the category of perfect films.

I've had many fantastic
moments in my life

but one of the most fantastic ones
was my encounter with this person,

who would be a great influence on me

and to whom I owe many of my films

that I had the chance to make with him.

He's my God.
Or my brother.

As you wish.

What made Americans like
Closely Watched Trains?

I also wonder what it was.

It is a film made for Czech audiences.

But I'm glad they liked it.

And I'd love this film to bring
Mr. Hrabal closer to them

because he deserves to be
such a world renowned author.

At this spot, there stood a house

in which, from the '50s to the '70s

of the last century Bohumil Hrabal
used to live.

I think, in fact, that creative work...

genuine creative activity is

a special prerogative of humans

causing them much... good.
And giving them a good feeling.

Whenever I was making a film
and I stopped being creative

and suddenly ceased having
some kind of relation to the movie

what remained was only work.

It was then terribly hard,
and mostly it showed in the movie

since creativity is man's privilege.

Work is violence
while creativity is joy.

You know, the Czech film industry
was very strong before the war.

Small country,
Czechoslovakia in the times

14 million people, was producing
over 30 full-length features

which only 14 million people could understand
in the Czechoslovak language, you know

which was enormous amount.

But when... then
the communists took power

and they nationalised
the film industry

and the production dwindled
to two, three films a year.

But meanwhile, the film school was
producing new and new students.

So every year there were, you know, 5-6 new
'in-waiting' directors, writers, cameramen

coming out of the school
and there was no work.

So in the time when
Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin,

we were like tense and tense

you know, waiting in front of the closed doors
of the Barrandov Studio to start working.

And he said that one line -
Khrushchev - there that,

"We must give more confidence,
opportunities to young people!"

Okay, here we are.

So in 1963, the door opened and
just, you know,

the whole army of new directors
started to work.

Leaders of Western countries
made a deal with Stalin during the war

that Central Europe, including
the Czechoslovak Republic


would eventually come under
the Soviet influence.

So police terror existed
here in the 1950s.

I mean...

the atmosphere in the society
was not good.

There were human rights violations,
and so on.

As a consequence of that

the '60s saw a bit of a mitigation

a kind of a liberalisation

which made it possible for...


for the Czech and Slovak
New Wave to emerge.

A friend used to say,
"Culture tries to get its foot in the door

while the regime tries
to shut the door again.

Every time the regime loses a bit of grip,
the foot gains more ground."

So, during those 20 years, the regime
alternately tightened and loosened its grip.

But the advantage of it was that in the '60s
a group of people came forward

who wanted to do something new, and were
motivated by an aversion to the regime.

In 1965, 1966, 1967, the situation
got gradually more relaxed.

And we all searched for opportunities
to make films we wanted to make

films that... we couldn't do
until that time.

Orson Welles said that,
"Little oppression is good for art"

so I think it was a part of it that we

were developing in an environment
which was oppressive

and we didn't like it.

After all the atrocities,
experiences, the killings

and everything that we saw
during World War II

it looked like a new beginning.

Communism promised equality,
freedom, brotherhood.

But after that,
it dramatically changed its face

and we suddenly found that
we were in a cage

that we were razor wired

and couldn't even speak about freedom.

And that was a disappointment
of the highest order

that an intellectual can be hit by.

We were, of course, quite young
back then - 19, 20 years old.

That's a time of idealism.

And the realisation of the 1950s
was even more cruel

when they began executing the
most intelligent communists

who were

firm in their thoughts
and philosophies.

Then the executions happened,
and what was truly horrifying

was that they somehow forced these
intellectual heavyweights to

call themselves criminals,
enemies, spies.

That was unbelievable.

And that was when our liking
for communism stopped.

We knew that something
must be done to change it.

In 1969, Antonín Liehm who was an
important film critic in the '60s

subsequently left the country after '69

wrote an article in which he talked
about the "Czech Film Miracle".

So that term was used
as well at that time.

I think "New Wave",
I'm not sure who coined it.

The miracle was that the
Czechoslovak film industry

was financed by the state

was owned by the state.

This is something that especially

the West European film critics
could not understand

why the communist government is paying
filmmakers to destroy their own regime.

It was the time of the weakness of
this bureaucratic communistic regime.

That means, they were
losing control of everything

and that way we were out of focus
of the concentration of the power.

And so, they were fighting
between the both

and basically they let literature,
music and films 'sort of' freedom.

And we used it -
me, Chytilová, Menzel, Forman,

we just captured this
possibility of the freedom and

we made a film.

Sometimes it happened that
the film was forbidden, like

A Report on the Party and the Guests

then I was expelled from the film studio

but I was allowed to work for TV,
and I was allowed to travel abroad

let's say, work for the foreign company.

That means it was
time of relative freedom.

Everything is spoiled in this world.

What do you mean, "everything"?

You know, everything.

In this world...

You know what?

When everything is being spoiled...

What then?


be spoiled...


Us too.


Is that a problem?

Not at all!

Come in... come in... come in

The name "New Wave" was simply
invented by journalists

because there was also
a New Wave in France.

The closest to the term
"Czech New Wave", without any doubt

was Jiří Menzel in
Closely Watched Trains

but, of course, we shouldn't
forget Věra Chytilová

who really stirred up those
stagnant professional waters

of Barrandov by doing what was irritating,
what was much more lively and not academic.

When the director of photography Jarda Šofr
returned from a projection of Les Cousins

he felt so dazzled, he was out of his mind
after watching Les Cousins.

Therefore, we saw the opportunities
of film expression in Italian movies

but we knew them mostly from the French.

And I think that even Věra Chytilová was

in her first movies,
influenced greatly by Agnès Varda.

The big drama about
"La Nouvelle Vague" was this...

We saw that Jean-Luc Godard was
shooting in the street and all

so a lot of producers started to think

that you could do whatever,
with whoever in any way you wanted.

But the thing is that Jean-Luc
had talent and maybe even had genius.

We saw Breathless.
We saw other things.

And the way of shooting
was the most enjoyable I could think of.

And it was very...
It was an amazing time.

And many years later, in the '90s

when I was shooting
a French co-production film

the French producer told me

"That short film of yours...
it looks exactly like a Godard".

Godard influenced all young
European directors so fundamentally

that, for example Skolimowski,
the Polish director

would clean the walls just like Godard.

I thought Godard

was sort of a Pope
of the disruption of the form.

That very much intrigued me.

And in my first film

I let myself be very influenced
by the way he perceived space.

Earlier here, as well as in France,
the films were shot mainly in studios

with heavy film cameras,
shot on weak film material

that wasn't very sensitive and
required complex lighting.

Suddenly, they marched on to the streets
with portable cameras with sync sound.

For us it was a big inspiration

and that's why our movies
also went out of the studios.

For that reason, I would say that
they were much more natural.

Hi Miloš!

- Hi Maša!
- You're looking smart.

You're looking nice too, Maša.

I know, when I'm going
to see the Menzel film,

I prepare my mouth and
I know that I will enjoy

and I will watch the film like this.

Because this will be the spirit,
which I like so much

this is the Central Europe.

He is someone who can symbolise
the Central Europe way of telling the stories


living in not so simple times
and sometimes

quite brutal political situations

and always having a smile and
always telling the small stories

with themes that have nothing
to do with the system

but they are talking about
the system on their own way.

I think this is one of the films that
changed the history of Eastern cinema.

It expresses so well what
I love about Czechs

about this mix of humour and gravity

this self irony,
this kind of distance to the life.

Don't take yourself and
the life too seriously.

But, at the same time, it's what
I don't like about the Czechs

that it's too easy for them to push
away the responsibility for the things.

Everything is so light

that it doesn't mean that we
are responsible for that.

It's what Milan Kundera,
another great Czech artist

called "unbearable lightness of being".

So in Menzel movies,
it's exactly this lightness of being

and sometimes it's unbearable and
sometimes it's just beautiful.

It's basically a really delicate,
intimate look at the life of a young man

who's confronted with
someone truly unreal.

And it's done in such an intimate way that
I see it myself, I breathe into his face...

He breathes into my face,
I completely understand him.

That's absolutely simple...
absolutely simple... it's Hrabal.

If there is something from Menzel
then it is only reflected from Hrabal.

All around is war and big drama

and this young boy's biggest problem is
his frustrated quest for sexual initiation.

That is the main theme and
what drew Menzel to the book

because Menzel has a very specific and
peculiar interpretation of eroticism.

It was a description of how Zdeníčka Svatá
describes to the investigator, Zedníček,

what Mr. Hubička did to her at midnight,
while on duty

and it got me excited.

The way he described how
the dispatcher laid her down

and took her pants off and all that...

I remember that at the time it was
almost pornographic literature for me.

Eleven... twelve...

Contrary to, like, the French New Wave

or the Danish New Wave

we didn't have any defined aesthetics.

I often protest against the
summarising term "New Wave"

because it was a wide spectrum of
authors, who were very diverse

and connected by friendship, jealousy

and all the usual things
involved in filmmaking.

Jan Němec's films are very different
from Chytilová's films.

Chytilová's films are very different
from Evald Schorm's films.

Evald Schorm's films are very different
from mine or Ivan Passer's films.

Miloš Forman... he...
It was his idea.

It was he who called Štefan Uher
"John the Baptist"

of the Czechoslovakian New Wave.

Because the film
The Sun in a Net

was made earlier than
Forman's Black Peter.

I was a big admirer of Fellini

I was big admirer of Alain Resnais

I was big admirer of Robert Bresson

and I was admirer of Louis Malle

but my biggest

influence, or I'll say, my God,
was Luis Buñuel.

That's Federico Fellini,
whom I drew this way.

He looks a little bit like a lunatic.

And this is how he perceived me,
this is how Federico Fellini drew me.

Everything happens in a surprising way.

People act in ways
they shouldn't be acting.

In this symbolic way,
people were learning freedom.

You understand me?
And Czech literature was just like that.

Páral, Hrabal, Škvorecký...

They were doing things in ways
the things aren't done.

I guess the first one was
Audition by Miloš Forman.

This is Věra Křesadlová.


This is with Miloš. I was shooting
the movie on that camera.

That was a French camera.

And I brought him to Miloš,
and Miloš said, "What did he do?"

I said, "Nothing yet,
but he is going to be very good."

He said, "How do you know?" I said,
"Well, I saw him when he was an operator."

And he worked for top cinematographers

and he learnt very well from them.

So Miloš said, "Okay, I..."

Also because we were very young and
we didn't think that any, sort of a,

established cinematographer
would want to work with us

on something which we
did with our resources.

For a bottle of wine,
we got film from television

you know, leftovers.

I started my first film Konkurs - Competition,
if you want - as an amateur film

just as a home movie for my friends.

And then, when the doors to
the Barrandov opened and

they gave me chance to
finish it as a movie

which can be released in the theatres

then I needed to do a
little fixing of the...

It's half documentary, really, but we wanted
to give a little bit of a plot, so I...

I called on Ivan Passer,
because we were together.

This is German camera.

You know, before war go down.

This camera, Miloš Forman buy from Germany
for, say, 10,000 crowns at that time.

My dad always said,
"I'm not a cameraman, I'm a filmmaker."

"I was left with a camera, I work with
it, but I want the film to be good."

I think absolutely the most important thing
that I admire the most about him is that

he is a film narrator. His tool is a camera.
He narrates through the camera.

Mirek Ondříček was probably the
ideal collaboration for me

because we were so much tuned into
the same visions that we were...

I was not even aware of working with him.

This is a camera I got from my dad.

What's interesting about this camera is
like my dad, it was 'born' in 1934.

And then Forman came once
to see the performance.

He loved the band.

And he wanted to shoot a film about
how Semafor, the theatre, is moving

to the centre of Wenceslas Square.

And he had this story in mind,
with this girl, or more people

who would be in the movie, so that
it wouldn't only be a documentary

but there would also be some acting.
So he was looking for people.

And we were just having this
big concert, the only one...

the only one the communists overlooked

in Lucerna, as part of this
Big Beat bands gathering.

And Forman also came to see the concert,
and he said I should also act in the movie.

And I said that I didn't want to.

I said I had school leaving exams coming
and didn't want to act in a movie,

because I had a few walk-on parts
in movies before

small roles during my studies.

But he said he wanted
me to take part in it

that I didn't have to
sing if I didn't want to

that he just wanted me in the movie.

So I took part in Audition.

He, kind of, tried so hard,
he would invite me out for dinner

and take me to see
all these interesting people.

And he took me to Semafor.

So, in short, I started dating him.

And I dated him for about half a year
when I became pregnant.

And we had twins.

So before I gave birth we got married,
I married with a little belly already.

And then the movie, Audition,
was quite a success.

One day, in this one-room apartment

I remember that we were saying

how, in this country,
you can make a decent movie.

And we took a piece of paper

and we wrote down eight points,

that it has to be a comedy,

because the censorship

following the Party's directive that

the public needs to be
entertained, was milder

the censorship was milder,

that we are going to use non-actors

non-professional actors

because the professional actors, we thought,
they were corrupted by the whole system,

they will shoot on the street

which, we saw it is possible
from Italian Neorealistic movies

and also, outside of studio...
less controlled

and we are going to use natural light

and... there were like eight points.

And, then we said,
"Okay, so how do we start?"

He put an advert in the newspaper that the
Semafor Theatre is looking for actresses.

And then we waited...

We received over 200 applications.

Miloš Forman used
a half-hidden camera, not totally,

but so the amateur actresses
wouldn't be intimidated.

So he was, sort of,
hidden behind a curtain.

He let them do whatever they wanted to.

But he did a very clever thing.

He put in several of his own characters.

He instructed them beforehand
what they should say, more or less.

For instance, he told one actress
that, "In the end,

you won't compete because
you'll have stage fright."

Like this... And he let them express
themselves in their own words.

And then he shot it all.

When we saw it, we were amazed.
Such a film hadn't existed until then.

The top editor in the studio

agreed to look at it and put it together.

We started, like, in the morning

and he was a...
The guy was unbelievable.

So fast on the...

When he was moving the film

I couldn't follow if he's moving
left to right or right to left, he was so fast.

And at some point,
we fell asleep with Miloš

it was like 10 o'clock at night

and he woke us up at 6 o'clock in the morning
and he said, "There is the movie."

I lived 10 years in Germany,
but I know Hrabal...

It wasn't a relationship with the Golden Tiger pub,
but a relationship with beer.

Hrabal used to say,
"My relationship with beer is a sacred one".

He grew up in a brewery. Beer was something
which was in a certain way sacred

something that was important,
but also an everyday thing.

His mother, instead of
buying him a lemonade

filled a jug from the beer tank and
said, "Drink, little Bohumil."

He was drunk for the first time
when he was five.

No, you can also turn right.
But if you go left, you'll get to Mr. Hrabal...

That's what I want... but I mean
is the end of the road there?

Yes, that's the end of this concrete road...

Menzel, unlike Hrabal,
isn't a surrealist, of course.

And his overall approach is kinder,
or more conciliatory.

He is sort of...

His narrative style is
a bit different than Hrabal's.

But in Closely Watched Trains,
the two clicked very well.

I think that the film is almost
even better than the book.

Hrabal was a natural.
There wasn't even a shade of falsehood.

The things he wrote corresponded
with the things we all knew.

Moreover, he didn't describe it passively,
he finds paradoxes.

In a single sentence, he writes
things that make you laugh

and at the same time you find a
certain depth and sadness in it.

He knows how to write texts that...
His texts are like a mosaic

where one stone catches glitter
from the other.

The sentences... how they fit together!

Or the sentences... that he just took directly
from everyday dialogues of ordinary people

the things he experienced in the pubs,
the gibberish that he heard

he managed to draw out
incredible seeds of wisdom from that.

Suddenly unimportant stories
became very important

the character you will never spend
two minutes with

suddenly you want to
watch that character for two hours.

The whole hidden world of
little people and lives

suddenly became very important
on big screen.

I'd say that the secret to
Jiří Menzel lies in the fact

that he tried to make films

to entertain, but at the same time
be understood by, his mother.

I think that's the key to
understanding Jiří Menzel

that he didn't bother with
any intellectual concepts.

Loads of the films from
the '60s are dated

but loads of them are timeless
due to the human element.

When I read his book Closely Watched Trains,
I said I'd love to make it into a film.

And he said, "Why not? OK then."

In those days, Evald Schorm came to see me.
He belonged to the group.

He was the oldest one of us and
the one held the most in esteem.

He told me, "Juraj, I'd love to make
Closely Watched Trains."

And because I was naïve back then, I thought,
"The world is open now, we're in 1968."

"Now we'll be able to
make anything we want."

So I said,
"OK, I will make something else."

So Evald Schorm took it.

To my great surprise, I learnt that Evald Schorm
wasn't filming it, but that another director was.

The Second World War setting
isn't portrayed as black and white

as a simple clash of good and evil.

On the contrary, it shows that the boundary
between good and evil is very grey, very unclear

just like between cowardice and heroism.

And in that sense,
the film is very dear to me.

And really timeless...

I love it.

I liked the rhythm,
I liked the pacing, I liked the...

It moved at the speed of
one's own eye and thoughts.

And I thought the performances
were very delicate, again

and observed and truthful
and not performed.

I liked the fact that it wasn't

in fact all the films

I liked the fact that they weren't
pushing you into a response

like American films do, where the music
will tell you what you ought to think

and the action and the cutting
is too pressured.

The Czech films had a quietness about them
and it was the quietness I liked.

And I thought that it meant that you
smiled with the characters more

you laughed with them, you wept with them

you were touched by them as you would be

if you met those people in a room.

I had to blow at the stamp

and then he said, "Do you know
what a carp does, what a fish does?"

And then he showed me.

So I did it in the same way

and that's also what the audience liked.

They said it was not obscene
but actually quite sexy.

The movie was done and
I was summoned by the studio boss.

He expressed some worries about
nudity in movies, that it's not good

and we should remove the scene.

I'm not very smart,
but I had a genius idea.

I said, "Look, you say
it will enrage the viewers."

"We will have a premiere, not official,
but after the movie is complete."

So we promised to show it to
the people where we filmed it...

to the railroad workers and the people
from the station where we filmed.

"We will show it to them and
if they are enraged by it,

the working class, if they
hate the nasty stuff,

I will ask the workers," - there were
railroad workers and common folks -

"I will ask them whether
I should remove the scene."

We showed the movie, I thanked them
for applauding me and I told them

"There is an effort to remove this scene.
Should we remove it?"

"No!" shouted the whole room.
They said no and so it stayed.

The working class saved me.

In The Firemen's Ball they decided
"Listen, let's go!"

"Let's show this film to people in
the town where they were shooting

so that the people can see what kind of fun
Forman is making out of these people

and they will tear him apart."

So... And they even advised me not to go there
so that I am not attacked by angry mob.

So I didn't go there but
then I was told what happened.

What happened was that
they screened the film...

it's over.

The planted person
raises the hand and says

"Comrades! I think this film
is just disgrace."

"It's making fun of our heroic firemen who
are fighting to save our homes, our lives."

"And look at this disgusting way
they are portrayed in this film."

"And all this is untrue."

"This is... This can never be happening, you know,
in our community" and like that and blah blah.

"What do you think?"

And they were used that
people would stand up and say

"Yes. You are right, comrade,"
and like that.

Suddenly, one of the firemen in the movie
raised his hand, stood up and said,

"Well, I don't know
why you are saying it's not true."

"Aloisa, do you remember how that shack
was burning there and we couldn't get there

because Peppa was drunk and he couldn't
get the car out of the garage?"

"The whole shack burnt down to... then..."

"Then we went up, you know, in the pub
and got drunk and... like, you know."

"I don't know.
I think the film is so true."

And what big laugh! Big applause!
You know...

because they didn't realise one thing,
that in this moment

the firemen didn't see themselves
on the screen.

They saw themselves as actors.

In February 1966, I went for
the audition at Barrandov,

and Jirka Menzel chose me.

At first he tried the role himself, but...

and they picked me on recommendation
from the wife of one of the producers.

He said, "Take him... that Neckář
is so ugly that he is beautiful."

I said to him,
"Listen, you are too old to play this."

"You need somebody really young."

And he listened and gave it to a
non-actor who was perfect for the part.

They are making a whole documentary
film on the Czech New Wave

and they would love to have you there...

I believe you, but
it is really not possible.

I'm very sorry, I'm very sorry.

Please, please...
It's not possible.

I'm very sorry... I'm very sorry...
Thank you... thank you.

Thank you very much.

Goodbye... and happy journey.

Thank you.

OK, once more... really not.

It's not possible.

Only five minutes...

It's not possible.

Years ago, when European cinema was
so impressive in New York City

and all foreign filmmakers were
sending their films over here

films like Closely Watched Trains was
enormously successful and enormously influential

on all the young people that
wanted to go into film

they... we all wanted to
make films like that.

And Jiří Menzel's films were
particularly interesting to me

because they were funny, but they are also
very sad and they had a very serious undercurrent.

They weren't frivolous, they had something
to say in addition to the humour.

They can't imagine why we are here.

They can't imagine what was done,
what was shot here 44 years ago.

But I think that, thanks to the situation that
the movie was shot on black and white film

I am sure that these children will see
the movie when they will be older.

As for Šofr, I did the shot,
and Šofr did the light.

That's his... that's his great mastery.

He knew what it would look like
later on screen.

I even always tightened the screws,
so that the operator couldn't move it

because I wanted to have an exact...
because I like doing static shots

because the movement of the camera
always adds another element.

It changes something, as if you
underline a word in the text.

The concept of the film was very archaic,
like old cinema

like cinema with the aesthetics of a silent film.

Miloš... what has happened to you?

Let me see!

Dr. Brabec told me that
an older woman should teach me.

So I was wondering
whether you know one.

No, I don't, Miloš.
You'll have to find one yourself.

What about your wife?

Vladimír Valenta was not an actor,
but a scriptwriter.

He just fit the image of a Czech person,
who can always duck at the right time.

In him, there is much of the Czech soul

more than a professional actor.
That's why I liked his softness, his naïvety.

And thanks to me, he made his career, because
then the Russians came and he emigrated to Canada

and there he could not make a living
as a scriptwriter, so he washed cars.

Across the garage where he was working, they
showed this very movie, Closely Watched Trains.

When the people came out
of the movie theatre

they noticed the conductor from the movie
was washing cars there.

So, they invited him to the television
and did an interview with him.

After that they started to give him some roles,
mainly in Canadian movies.

He even had some small roles in Hollywood.

By trivialising Hrabal's works

by making them simpler, yeah?

By actually turning his works
into sentimental spectacles

he gave Hrabal
worldwide recognition, yeah?

Meaning, he made the world
aware of Hrabal

who was certainly a very quality writer,
as evidenced by some of his works

and who also had some mystic traits,
which in this culture is rare, right?

Meaning, I appreciate Menzel
getting Hrabal into the limelight

but the films actually don't do Hrabal justice.

If you read Closely Watched Trains,
you'll know that Menzel skipped

one very cruel dying scene
of the main protagonist and Menzel said

that they even shot an
optimistic ending of the film

they were trying to let
the main protagonist live.

They showed him somewhere on a tree
after the explosion

but it was clear that it would
debase the whole film.

I think that story describes
Menzel very well.

He doesn't like tragic endings.

He doesn't like suffering.

I just remembered Wajda's film
Ashes and Diamonds

where the hero also dies
over a very long time in a scrapyard

and I thought it was very powerful
and at the same time

it reduced the impact
of the rest of the film.

It is true that when
we were shooting it

it occurred to me if it's not a shame that
the end of the film should be so tragic.

And we shot a scene in which Neckář
is stuck in the branches of a tree.

He flew in the air,
fell on a tree and that saved him.

And it was really idiotic.

So I was sensible enough
to let him die.

And it was a very substantial thing.

Had I not done it,
the film would have lost its value.

Because unfortunately, in a drama, only a
death takes the story to a higher level.

The death of Zbyszek Cybulski

the death of Maciek Chełmicki
on the garbage dump

that is about an either-or decision.

Why does he die on the
garbage dump in the film?

Because the censors said,


here is an enemy of the
People's Republic of Poland.

He murdered the secretary.

He must die for that."

Where does he meet death?
On the garbage dump.

What kind of dump?
On the dump of history.

As a result the censors said,
"OK, let it go this way."

Yet, this scene, shown in a cinema,

evoked totally different impressions
in the audiences.

Because the viewers said,

"This is our boy, in these sunglasses."

"He's been fighting all through the war,
he fought in the Uprising."

"He's been courageous,
he cannot accept the fact

that the Allies have sold out Poland
to Stalin in Yalta, and he continues fighting."

"Where does he die then?
And they kill him on a garbage dump?"

"What kind of government does that?"

And this discussion was only possible
because there were only images.

If I had introduced any words - no.

For example, in the original novel,
and even as late as in the script

it said that the soldiers
that shot him run up to him

and say to him as he lay there dying,

"Man, why did you try to escape?"

Well, I couldn't say such words
so I erased this, I cut it out.

I even filmed it but
then I cut it out. Why?

Because he knew why he was running away.

He was aware that these soldiers
were chasing him not to save him

they were chasing him to kill him.

Therefore, the government's attempt
at reconciling

that the government tried to reconcile

those left-wing combatants with those who hoped
for a different solution after the war...

Well, no!

This conflict is best shown
in this very scene.

But it was only possible because
there were only images.

That it was shown in a way

that made it possible to interpret it
in two ways.

Ah! Uncle Hitchcock.

That was...

a big adventure for me because I was...

Here was this classic... we were
two great filmmakers next to each other.

He was very nice to me, Hitchcock.

He knew my film and
talked to me about it.

Whereas I couldn't talk much
about his films because

there were no Hitchcock films
in those days in Czech cinemas.


So... This is from the trip.

Ah! Jitka.

I have to add
one more nice thing about Hitchcock.

That evening when I was there,
he got an honorary Oscar.

He was very charming.

People usually come there
to receive the award and give a speech

and thank their colleagues and some producers
and thank and thank and speak.

Mr. Hitchcock...

came there, like this, and said...

"Thank you!"

Later on, I got a voucher to buy a car.

There was no other way at that time.

I got permission to go to Paris
for three months to learn French.

Because they couldn't have paid me
more than any other beginner.

There were rules that one had to shoot
about four films

to advance to a higher category, etc.

It was finished and he showed it to us.
And Vávra was quiet for a long time.

He didn't review it. Then he sat in a car,
and told us that he was going on a holiday

and drove away.
But then he stopped the car.

He opened the door and Vávra was calling

back to Menzel,
who was standing in the back.

He shouted at him,

"Menzel, that's the most beautiful movie
that was ever filmed here."

Josef von Sternberg is the one
who made The Blue Angel,

When I was at my first festival,
in Mannheim, with Tra in s...

he had a retrospective there.
They screened all of his films.

And, later, during the award ceremony,
I sat in the front row and he came by

stood in front of me, and bowed to me.
I had no idea what it was about.

Then he sat next to me and then I was told
that he wanted to give me his own award

but because I'd already got the main prize,
he couldn't give me another prize...

so he didn't give it to anyone.

But this man, a legend, bowed to me.

They organised big celebrations for the 30th
and now the 40th anniversary of the film.

The film was screened there, and all of us
who were still alive came there to celebrate.

It was very nice, they had prepared
everything for us.

Now the small town is far prettier.
Earlier, it was quite an ordinary town.

But everything has gotten better since then.

I couldn't recognise it
when I was there later. Not at all!

But the people still
fondly remember the film

and the small railway station
stayed the same as it was before.

I believe that the camera looks both ways.

Camera looks forward at the actors
or whatever you want to film

or it looks backwards
at people who make that film.

And I think

seeing Closely Watched Trains
I got to know him better than from the school.

And that was very impressive

because for me, that's a sign
of certain artistic honesty.

I'd like to say the director was
very fond of this small crew.

Nobody has ever doubted that.

Nevertheless, we cannot
overlook the fact

that he would often scream at
individuals or everybody at once.

I want to apologise a bit

because I think it was
somewhat my fault.

I noticed it from the very start,
and I found it amusing.

And being the entertainer he was

I suspected he was screaming at you,
because he knew I was enjoying it.

My suspicion was confirmed
when he told me,

"Jirka, today is going to be
a bit boring for you

but don't worry, I'll scream at
somebody in the evening for sure."

So I was thinking I could take over
for him in this sense tonight

to make us feel his presence.

But then again if he were here

he would probably just be happy
to see you all

just as I am happy I've had the opportunity
to be a part of this.

Thank you very much!

What can you say
when your classmate dies?

When he passes away?

Of course that, first of all,
it's a pity the person is gone.

Then that it's also too bad, because
he could've done more things.

Or that - and that's the crime
of the communist regime -

that the people weren't allowed to work
when they were strong

when they were around thirty
and they had things to say.

And the regime simply killed them.

It cut them off
from their work with an axe

and if they were allowed to
start working again later

they could only do things they
wouldn't have done otherwise.

They would have made different films.

But that's...

That's the way life is.

Women - girls, chicks,
Eva, Klára, Věra,

Zuzana, Helenka,
Bohunka, another Zuzana,

Christie and Martina.

Sorry, I'm presenting my loves.
I'm skipping random encounters.

Each of us shot films which were stylised
totally differently, according to our character.

But all those films had a common spirit

and that's why they called us
the "Czechoslovak New Wave".

We didn't know at the time that there was some
"wave" or that it would become the "New Wave"

or that the things we were doing
would be successful...

So it didn't mean any special thing to me.

Jaromil Jireš -
sadly, he is no longer alive...

This is Ivan Passer.
He lives in the United States.

Hynek Bočan is alive and working,
mainly for television.

Pavel Juráček, unfortunately,
also is no longer alive.

Mrs. Chytilová is alive and works a lot
although she is almost 83.

This is Honza Máša, he is also
no longer alive, unfortunately.

This is Honza Němec who is alive
and though he is also way past 70

he works and teaches at school,
just like Mrs. Chytilová.

This is Evald Schorm who is unfortunately
not alive any more, either.

I guess you know this person...
he is a farmer in Connecticut

who sometimes makes films.
His name is Forman.

And this is me...
a Czech pensioner.

Once in a while,
I look at them, and...

it helps me to

in my mind, to go back to that time.

"How is it that for labourers' wages
movies like that are made?"

"Movies by Honza Němec and Mrs. Chytilová."

That was a rude attack.
Dangerous at the time.

We met and wrote a letter, as a protest
against the proclamation of the politician.

And that's the only time, the only
moment when we were all together.

Then someone had the great idea
to take a picture of us together

on the street,
in front of Juráček's house.

That was precious... these are the
only pictures I have with them.


It's nice to remember it all.

The bad guys and bad girl
were me, Jan Němec and Věra Chytilová.

So if somebody is attacking me and Chytilová,
that is attacking to our group or our movement.

And only way possible to do
it was to make the pictures.

And this was, without comment,
published in one literary weekly.

And of course people know it, learn it

and also these Bolsheviks
said that we are together.

And that means that it would not be easy
to eliminate one or two of us

you know, at this time, we were
internationally in Europe, very well known

you know, we were winning festivals.

That means the attack on the
whole group or the movement

would finally did big damage
to the communist men.

The truth is that
Novotný preferred comedies...

rather than...

to any ideologically
problematic or dramatic films,

which is also why in the spring of 1967

the Communist Party was
trying to split the New Wave,

trying to tear it in two, to pit
Němec and Chytilová against others...

against those who made comedies,
which was Forman and Menzel.


"You can shoot anything now. Your films
are the only ones making money."

"People come to see your films.
They're awarded at world festivals."

They were and always will be.
And they still are today.

And then the thing was that...

I looked at him and said...

Because he said, "But when you
oppose the Party, we will chop you!"

Like when you kill a rabbit,
behind the ears.

"We will chop you."

It was still a communist country
with the censorship.

But the voice of artists,
including filmmakers

was so strong that it was possible
to defeat the authorities.

There aren't many of us left now.
Evald is gone, Jireš is gone. Máša, Juráček,

Honza Němec.

There is only Hynek Bočan and me.

Jesus Christ... And Miloš. And Ivan Passer.
Thank God for them!

At this time he was
completely unknown writer.

And "Pearls of the Deep"
was his first book.

And immediately, the book
was a great success.

And through one walk to the FAMU to...

I walked with Jiří Menzel.

We said, we can help Mr. Hrabal
promote his short stories

and that would be best if it would be
not done by one filmmaker but by different.

So, basically that we would keep
our personal styles

but respect, in the way,
that original text of Hrabal.

And it's exactly one of these generational groups,
which studied at FAMU at that time

with some exceptions

that practically became the face
of this New Wave of film.


It was as if it were a reaction
to the films of the 1950s

again optimistic, cheap, constructive.

We began to view this
reality very soberly.

Or... even caustically.

And it's also no accident that they all met
in one omnibus film, Pearls of the Deep,

when each approached the adaptation

of Hrabal's work in their own way.

How could you abuse the car so terribly?

- Just tell me how.
- How?

As we were driving home at night,
Slavek told me

"Mother, we're still one death short,
so here you are. Drive." So I drove...

I believe that of all the filmmakers

he did the best job of it, because
he detached the word from the image.

Hrabal's words aren't
necessarily directly related

to what is happening
in front of the camera.

And that's where
a peculiar poetry is born.

I never was a student of the film school.
So I wasn't a part of it.

My good friend Jaromil Jireš,
who was a part of it

asked me to join them and adapt
a short story by Bohumil Hrabal.

I accepted, of course.

Most of those guys and Chytilová
weren't very--

they were against it because
they didn't know me.

They didn't want to include me.

But then I shot one of the short stories

and Hrabal said,
"This is the best one filmed of the lot."

The only problem is that, most likely,
that's what Hrabal told everyone.

Kučera was director of photography,
I was the operator.

This is Kučera...
a picture of the two of us?

Christ! The things you ask...
I can't find it.

I don't know how we don't
have a picture with Kučera...

Because he photographed us.

Because he made photos.

He was extremely experimental. He was
also making experimental films at home...

something we used in Daisies,
for that broken film format...

where he was breaking the reality,
frame by frame....

He used to shoot frame by frame,
which means he was breaking the picture...

He was not, let's say,
verbally communicating person.

He was very inside... closed person.
That means...

It was not easy work with him.

But, you know, on the second hand, the result
with him, to work with him was all time excellent.

A thousand angels in paradise...

I love you all.

Dear friend, what's wrong with you?

Nothing. Just something in my throat.

But I would prefer you telling me
something about your articles...

It's one part of the Hrabal's work
that is not so, let's say,

optimistic and humanistic,
it is more cruel and cynical.

Menzel... all his adaptations
of movie was

the way we are nice,
a life is nice and optimistic.

We had it divided. Right from film school
I was prepared to work with Jaromír Šofr.

I had already worked with him at school.

I respected Kučera a lot,
but his style was a bit different.

The main thing was that
he was Mrs. Chytilová's territory!

We persuaded Hrabal he had to
appear in cameos in all the short stories

to play a small role
throughout the short stories.

He told me later that he was angry.

He acted in Chytilová's segment
The World Cafe,

and he told me,
"I only wrote it was raining

but then the fireman kept on drenching me
with water for three nights!"

And that discouraged him from
any further acting in films.

There was a film club, and
that's where I met with Mr. Hrabal.

That is where I saw him
for the first time.

We were close friends with Věra.

She couldn't come for some reason,
so she asked me to speak for her.

She wanted to do The World Cafe.

When Ivan said that he also
wanted to do The World Cafe,

I started to fight for Věra.
I said that it is her intimate theme.

I invented all that nonsense

because I knew that her father
was a restaurant owner.

He managed a railway restaurant and
the theme was close to her heart, I babbled.

Ivan, like a gentleman, withdrew.
He decided to do a different short story.

By the way, A Boring Afternoon
is the most beautiful of all the stories.

At least that is my opinion.

And when I fought it out in this way

I was curious why Věra decided
on this particular story.

I wanted to know if I'd talked rubbish!

Věra said - "Why? Because I haven't
read anything else by him."

I thought I would kill her.

My goodness! That's how
a wedding should be.

By coincidence, it was the short
story that I wanted to make.

But I had another one as an option, and I was
eventually happy to have shot The Junk Shop.

Then, when everybody else made the movie,
it was too long for a feature movie

so they released my film by itself.

I was the second one
to raise my hand, and I said,

"If I remove mine,
all of you will fit in it."

Good day, Miss Marcelka!

Good day, Josefínka Mánesová!

In oil paint, in a golden frame...

Damn it! That would be beautiful.

One day I came home and
I turned on the radio

it was exactly like this, I turned it on

"And the first prize in
Mannheim Film Festival

goes to the film,
A Boring Afternoon by Ivan Passer."

I didn't know they sent it there.

I remember my first shot
for the feature film...

We stood with the camera
on the motorcycle circuit track.

I said 'camera' so quietly - so quietly
that the cameraman did not hear it.

I had a weak voice and I spoke quietly.

And he gave me a terrible scolding.

These shots at the race track, we did
with Ondříček because Kučera was ill.

But I'd like to add that we didn't play
around with the speed of the camera.

We shot all at normal speed,
24 frames per second.

Only because it was done
with a long lens did it seem slower.

When you see it from a distance,
how the bikes swerved at the curves

and it has such a unique waltz rhythm.
So I found that waltz.

Mr. Hrabal described so well how the people
loved the motorcycling sport

but also - and this is Hrabal for you -
he shows how they're all thirsty for a tragedy.

That's why they go there,
that's why they talk about it...

about what catastrophe,
what disaster they saw.

And then when we first met and I saw him for
the first time in my life, I felt great respect for him.

And when we were parting, I caught up with him
on the street and I said to him that

I would like to know how he does it - that I read
about tragic things and I laugh at the same time...

and even then there's no cynicism or evil in it.
And he told me that all this is part of life.

What really makes me laugh is

that you want to, out of my ramblings

which've been going on for about 20 hours,

that you want to cut a film from it.

I am very curious about that.

I was born in Hanspaulka.

It was a neighbourhood
for rich people.

But one day,
there was a heavy rainstorm.

My parents lived in a cheap apartment
on the ground floor

and the whole apartment got flooded.

My mother got angry and said
she didn't want to live there anymore

and so my dad found
a new apartment in Strašnice.

So when I was about 6 months old,
we moved to Strašnice.

We're going... we're going to Strašnice.

Here, where that ugly building is,
there was an old Sokol centre

and there was an old cinema.

It was nice, as a child,
I lived incredibly near a cinema.

This reflection that you see here

so that's the building I spent
the first 12 years of my life in.

They showed Czech films made during
the war, under the Protectorate.

They were mostly kitsch,
but they were also comedies.

And I love them even today,
the comedies by Frič.

For example, my sisters and I saw
Eva Runs Wild about 11 times.

That's a movie which
I enjoy watching even now.

They have a deeper meaning and
aren't just laughter for laughter's sake.

Come on!
There's no one here!

I know, I know...

I'll cough, okay?

No, don't do that!

I know what then...

- I'll bark.
- Nooo...

Let's go rob the place!

Later, I directed the film
Crime in a Music Hall.

It was a simple comedy.

It was supposed to pay tribute
to Martin Frič, a pre-war filmmaker.

I tried

to make it black-and-white
and in the style of Martin Frič.

But I think he was better at it than I am.

We met for the first time at Barrandov.

He was supposed to be driven home,
and they put me in his car.

It was a Barrandov car. So I sat there
and waited for Frič.

Frič sat down and I said, "Good morning!".

Because I was shy,
I said it in a very quiet voice.

And I sat there, and he was angry.

We came to his villa and he got out.

He turned to me and said, "Young man,
in my youth, it was customary

for the younger one to introduce himself
to the older ones and greet them.

Thank you, good bye!"

So this is

where I spent my childhood.

This is where we used to play marbles.

This is where I experienced
my childhood crushes

and I pretty much
started everything here.

I was ten.

I experienced the war here.

From that balcony over there,
I saw an Allied airplane crash.

And at the end of the war,
a revolution broke out

and there were three barricades here

that were supposed to block
the passage of German armies.

I don't know how it turned out,
I was seven at that time

but I have beautiful memories
of the end of the war.

Me and my mother used to
steal corn there during the war.

Mamma was strict

slapped us and sometimes also caned us.

And when she felt she couldn't
handle us, dad took over.

He used his belt.

He used to beat us quite hard,
but I think it was good.

I don't like it when children
can do whatever they want.

Is your family also as crazy as mine?

Childhood, see?

I was this little.

So all this seemed huge to me.

Here we would walk this way
up to the second floor.

This is where I used to slide

and this is the way we took
to the cellar.

During wartime,
we would go there for coal, of course

but during air raids,
that was where we went to hide.

It all looks completely different now.

It's all been so refurbished.

And I don't want to walk upstairs.
It would make me feel sad.

So, this is the house...

the TV antennas weren't there before.

And that black roof over there,
that was where my school used to be.

One of my schools...

Schools I used to go to.

My school was actually
just a few steps from my home.

Not that I liked going there.

So, this is me with my little sister, and
the child watching us is my older sister.

This is my sister Hana,
and this is me or

the other way round -
this is Hanka, and this is me.

I am not sure anymore who is who.

Here we are a bit older,
we are probably at the zoo.

This one is nice.
That is me...

And this is my little sister,
my twin sister, who's eating my food.

So you see how I suffered
when I was a child?

Even my own sister
was stealing from me.

Otherwise, there are
only silly photos...

This is also from the zoo.

This is an interesting one,
my school class photo.

And I don't know
which child is me...

I didn't really want to be a filmmaker

nor did I have any opportunity
to become one

but my friend had a Super 8...
That's a small camera with 8 mm film.

He lent it to me,
and I tried to shoot something.

I was interested in everything,
also in the camera too.

I was working with the 8 mm camera,
and I was walking around Prague.

We had the Stalin monument

which was the biggest monument
in the world.

It was standing on these granite plinths.

And that was, sort of,
interesting architecture.

Steps, edges... I wasn't
shooting the statue itself.

I was shooting the base of
the statue, the plinth.

And I made an
experimental set of how

I thought the blocks should
fit within another.

It was an abstract film. But
luckily, it's no longer in existence.

This is completely different.

Here, there used to be a crop field here.

Where did all this come from?

This is the first time I see
there's a children's playground here.

It's really nice.

Because this was all a field

where oilseed rape was grown

where oat was grown
and other things...

And there was a farm house
in this direction.

This has all changed fantastically.

I have to look around...
This is the first time I'm here.

This street wasn't there.

50 years... actually more.
70 years.

Since I lived here
and experienced the war here.

The world is changing so fast.

So, let's go take a look
where I shot my first film.

A documentary. Okay?

We have to take a different way, though.

Let's try to go this way.

It's a completely different world!

It's incredible, because I swear,
this was a...

That was a crop field
and this was a fish pond!

A dried out one.

And that pond gave Strašnice,
this neighbourhood, its name.

Some gas was coming out of the pond
and it gave out light at night -

some phosphorus gas or whatever.

And that's why this place
was called Strašnice.

I have no idea
where all this came from.

Excuse me! Hello!

What is this company?


- Excuse me?
- Cosmetics, Oriflame.


- I used to live here.
- Okay.

And I don't recognise the place at all.

I was just thinking
that in those days, this house...

But no, I used to live across the street.

And I don't recognise it here at all.

Everything is different.

Thank you!

Take care! Goodbye!
Thank you, bye-bye!

I have no idea where we are.

Let's try this way.

I think this tree, this spruce tree,
it was planted by my mother.

A long time ago.

And the ground floor balcony
with that cage or whatever

was where we lived.

And from there, I could see

looking through some trees

there was a crop field here

nothing but a crop field, and

that was where they started building
the prefabricated blocs of flats.

Because I was lazy

I didn't feel
like thinking of anything else

I said at school
that I would make a film

about the construction
of prefabricated houses.

The man of this age

does not belong to the balconies of houses
that have grown old.

He wants to see further than into
the windows on the street.

Under his hands,
a huge construction set grows.

I came there. We brought a camera.
I, as a director, had the battery.

There were the cranes and the panels,
and I did not know what to do.

And Šofr was waiting for instructions
and I didn't know.

So I sat on the battery and I tugged
at the cable in order to break it off

so we'd have to return to school
and have it repaired...

and I had one more day to think
about what I want to do.


Nothing's changed here.

Even the seats are the same

as when my schoolmates
and I used to come here

for screenings of old films.

One day I discovered
a miraculous film there

Renoir's A Day in the Country.

It's a short film, about 15-20 mins long.
But it made such a big impression on me

that later on, when I wanted to make films,
it always came back to my mind.

Hello! May I ask you if you know where
Capricious Summer was filmed?

Where was the swimming pool built?

- Down there.
- On the other bank?

- No, on your side.
- Does this road by the water lead there?

- You can walk there.
- We were told that we have to walk.

- Right.
- Is there some creek and some confluence?

- It is down there. Not far.
- How far? 300 metres? 500?

- About 500 metres.
- Ok, so to the end and then by foot.

- That's about right.
- How far? 100 metres? Do you know?

- I don't know.
- Thank you for your kindness! Goodbye!

I am weird. For me, it isn't
about being inspired by something

or feeling the need to do something.

I get a job to do just like a joiner
is asked to make a table.

He gets an order and makes a table.

My only advantage is
that I get to choose

which table I want to make
and if I want to make it at all.

But afterwards, you shouldn't
see it as anything divine.

When they came to me with
the script, I sent them to hell.

You can only ruin that
by making a movie.

Vančura's text is exquisite,
it's like a poem.

Adding pictures can only ruin it.
Leave me alone, I said.

A few days later I met Jaromír Šofr,
a cameraman, we made Trains together

and nearly all of the later movies.

He'd just married, and he had a child.

The regular salary we had was very low.
The same as department store cashiers had.

He needed to make movies
so he would get salary for that.

I told him I just turned one movie down.

So Šofr made me call the writer
to see if it was still available - it was.

So I started filming Capricious Summer.

In 1968, three directors came
to the Cannes Festival

to present their films
which competed there.

Jan Němec: The Party and the Guests

Miloš Forman: The Firemen's Ball

and Jiří Menzel: Capricious Summer.

The Cannes Festival ended prematurely
- there were no awards given.

Miloš and Honza Němec ended up badly
because their movies were shown.

- We arrived in Cannes.
- Right!

And the festival was cancelled.

But you... you participated
in the cancelling.

You too.

Yeah, but because I didn't understand
a word what you guys were saying.

Nobody understood.

Jaromír, don't walk so much,
you're making noise.


Don't move so much,
you're making noise.

Come here!

Sit down!

Good afternoon!

It's sense of the provinces,
sense of time passed, sense of loss...

a kind of romantic affection
for that period.

These are unique...
Although, of course, the three characters

are supposed to be, kind of,
really criticised.

I mean, one is a pillar of the church,
another is a pillar of the bourgeoisie

and the other represents the army.

And they are all incompetent, impotent.

Let us eat and drink!

Give me a fat cheese,
venison, poultry, lambs

all that is brought forth alive or
hatched from eggs.

Give me a fish and the slugs

favoured in civilised countries.

Give me food.

The Earth has revolved again,
and it is time to eat.

Have you become a windbag
or a glutton, major?

Showing off with your teeth
or your tongue?

Too much talk makes me uneasy.


We have hardly begun!

You follow a bad regimen
with too much thinking.

Šofr had great sense for pictures,
and I had it for the language.

So I forced the actors to speak,
act and live normally,

but to speak in a literary way.

Vančura is legendary for this,
that was his style.

The contrast between how they look,
and how they talk, that impressed people.

I am Arnoštek, the conjurer.

Come here, please!
I'm really scared.

Don't be afraid!

Come, Mr. Dvořák!
Nothing to be afraid of.

You have chosen
a beautiful, noble profession.

I never wanted to act.
I was really shy and felt embarrassed.

It so happened that Ján Kadár was
preparing for a film set in a court

and as per the script they wanted
an advocate who is shy and timid.

But despite that, he wins in the end.

He didn't know of an actor
who he liked for the role

and so he tried me out.

We were at the festival in Helsinki,
at the International Theatre Festival.

We were invited there and
we performed Chekhov and Brecht.

Mr. Bergman was there as well
with "King Lear" played by Jarl Kulle

and he was clearly the most
suitable candidate for an award.

It was an excellent, wonderful,
spectacular high-level performance.

And then Menzel came with his
"Boarding House for Bachelors"

which is a comedy and
we didn't expect anything anymore,

but they almost fainted
and gave him the award

and said that he is
the only one in the world,

that there are many more
King Lears and Jarl Kulles,

but there's only one Menzel and
they gave him the award.

I've never learned it,
but I know how to do it.

What are you looking for
in that cabinet, friend?

He acted in several films, he also
both directed a film and acted in it,

so he had to change places and he saw
how his colleagues were working.

But most importantly, he knows much better
than I do how to work with actors.

I also tried a few times
to get into a film.

But I somehow cannot -
I cannot concentrate.

When I see a camera,
I pay attention to it.

It distracts me because
I imagine how it sees me.

The camera distracts me.
I cannot focus on acting.

I appeared in some films, but masked,
it was something like... Godard.

Originally, someone else was
supposed to play the part.

After two days, I found he was no good.
He had kind of an ego about him.

Then, fortunately, it so happened
that he had to go abroad,

and wasn't coming back for a long time.
So I had an excuse to replace him.

The main reason why I'm annoyed with this
magician is that whereas the other actors

know how to speak beautifully,
I speak like a pig.

I don't have good pronunciation,
and I speak only with half of my mouth.

That is what always bothered me.

But, on the other hand,
if he was a masculine character

who was compared to those old men

it wouldn't have felt balanced.
He wasn't supposed to act macho.

We were unlucky with the weather as

the whole thing was meant to be taken
while it was cloudy

and the sun was shining all the time.

So, in the meantime, the grass, which was
of course supposed to be nicely green

started to wither.

They had to paint it green.

To tell the truth, when I was there,
nothing much was happening.

We played cards and waited.

We lay on blankets and chatted.
And it was very pleasant.

I think at that time,
the shooting style was different.

The terrible tension was not there that
we have to shoot every day at all costs.

When I was making this film,
I was under the illusion

that a man over forty
is totally written off.

And that is where the idea came from that
all shall fail with the beautiful Anna.

I remember that once at school
I asked Věra, who had

a boyfriend, an actor,
who was a bit older than her

and I asked her, "You go out with him?"
And he was a bit over forty.

And she said, "Yeah, I go out with him."
And I said, "Who do you sleep with then?"

Because I thought that after forty,
men are good for nothing.

And later I realised it can happen to you,
even when you're 20, even when you're 60.

It simply happens!

I want to extend a special welcome

to the crew who came here
all the way from India, from Mumbai.

Let me welcome all of you
to the opening ceremony

of the exhibition
"Capricious Summers of Jiří Menzel".

I don't know exactly when I started
getting interested in women

but it's a fact that
I always liked my neighbours

even the older ones... It's true.

But I wouldn't call
myself a loose character.

It took me quite a while
to become active.

I love him...

except during the weeks
when we work together.

During those weeks, I hate him

because he is so zealous
in his profession

that nobody else exists to him.

I don't know.

I don't think the actors
have the worst memories of me.

At times we went for a
long lunch break, came back

and Mr. Šofr was still saying

"Not yet... Give me more light there.
Wait! Let me see!"

And Menzel was like, "Is it done yet?"

But he always chooses
him as his cinematographer

and it always pays off for him

because he owes half of his success
to the visual composition of his films,

and he shot all of his movies, I think.

So that's a pair of wonderful gentlemen.

They gave me the first prize.

And to Šofr the first prize
for technical quality.

We had no idea
what would come of it because

we were waiting 3-4 weeks
to see the dailies.

That was a different era.

But it had its advantages
since when shooting

you had to know where
you'd edit your film,

and that's really important.
In film, you need that.

Now movies are shot almost like TV.
Everything's shot

from multiple angles, then
put all together in editing,

which is basically a TV shooting...

even though it is a feature film.

And the effort to make a
film, I mean to put shots

in a comparison and a contrast,
to tell the story -

one shot is one word,
another shot is another word

and that they somehow
follow each other...

and that you tell something
by editing it.

Unfortunately, that's not
how it's done anymore.

I was unhappy about the film.
I did not like it.

I thought that no one
would be able

to watch it,
that it was boring and slow...

Miloš saw it somewhere
and he said,

"Mr. Menzel, you have made
a beautiful film."

And I said, "Miloš, why are you
making fun of me?

I know that it is crap."

"Not at all! You have done a great job!"

I thought to myself, I see,
he is happy that I am screwed.

But then they started praising me,
and he was still kind to me.

The ways of expression, the language

the composition,
the psychological treatment

of all characters and their communication,
each character is exactly defined

and notably portrayed... I think that this
movie is flawless. Well, it's hard to say

"flawless" about a movie, but I really
think that this is the top. It is.

Mr. Hrušínský once said
in an interview that

Chaplin's statement was that "in purgatory
people should see their own films."

His reaction was "I'm actually looking forward
to Menzel's films."

I think that's the greatest honour
I could ever get...

In four months, before
you finish the film

it won't even be ready...
I might turn ninety.

I would like to live to see that.

I hope that a couple of people
will remember me and say,

I hope that couple of people
will remember me and say,

"Thank you, Mr. Řehák!"

So... I don't like saying it again,
but I view Menzel's fate as...

talent which was ultimately wasted.

But let's at least be grateful for

his best works from the 1960s,
which truly wrote him

into Czech history,
or Czechoslovak cinema.

Should I climb on that? May I?
Do you want to have a laugh?

I can't any more. Once I knew
how to walk on this. Not any more.

There is no medicine for old age.

I never wanted to get married.
What a fool I was!

Now I'm glad.

But I won't be around
when the girls grow up.

That's my punishment.

I'm living a joyful old age.

When I finished Capricious Summer,

I immediately got another proposal
to make The End of Old Times,

which was by the same author.

But the script was written
by the author of the book,

Vladislav Vančura, who also
wanted to make movies.

Back then I thought,
"Okay, since the script already exists,

why make another one?"

"Let's shoot it the way
Vančura wrote the script."

Fortunately, we couldn't find the script.

So it was cancelled.

We only got back to it many years later.

They came to me and told me
the script had been found.

And it was impossible to shoot.

Mr. Juráček, you want to blame me, that
I don't give you the right chance.

Do you want to say something?

To young people, some message.

Yes I want, I want to say to young people

that there is great sadness in this
world from the very beginning.

They should come to study at FAMU
because it's great fun there.

My father was a journalist before the war
and he had a journalist friend

who'd reported on the FAMU
entrance exams the year before,

and he stole the list of questions
from Otakar Vávra.

It was quite an important list of around
250 to 300 questions on different fields

from visual arts, music,
films, architecture -

many questions with the aim of finding out
what the applicant knows about culture.

Vávra wanted educated people over there.

So I had a year to prepare
for those questions.

So I had quite an advantage... and one of
those questions about Dostoyevsky.

There were many questions
about literature.

I didn't like Dostoyevsky.

I never understood how to read him.

When I was preparing
for the Dostoyevsky question

I went to my father's library
and picked out

the thinnest Dostoyevsky book
there was - there were two short stories.

I read them, and at the exams, there was
indeed a question on Dostoyevsky.

I started talking about
that short story which

no one from the committee
really knew about

and so they were
immensely impressed by me.

They thought that I was very well read.

And I started comparing it
with another book and so on.

So Vávra got the impression
I was well educated.

And that is how
I got admitted to FAMU.

My father told me once that
the loveliest wall decoration is a full library.

So, I've managed to collect
many interesting things

about World War II, for example,
or about film.

Or about theatre.

And this is Czech prose,

contemporary Czech prose...

These are books about Czech prose,
same thing here.

And this is the era dearest to me

they are books from the First Republic
and from up to the 1960s.

These are the complete works
of Mr. Hrabal.

Here, here and here.

Everything that was
ever published, even abroad.

Here are the comics. The literature I love,
the humoristic books.

These were the books
that were not allowed

to be published in Bohemia,
in Czechoslovakia,

but they were published abroad and
I used to buy them secretly and hide them.

That is how I hide the lowbrow books...

And the whole Czech history

and the times when we belonged
to the Austrian Empire.

This is contemporary politics.
This is English literature.

Please don't think that I have read it,
but I have it here.

If I need to know something,
I have it here.

I don't read books, I have them
just in case I'd need them one day.

If you follow me, I'll show you more.

Here is Russian literature,
and here are books about Prague.

And here is everything
that didn't fit anywhere else.

This is a new bookcase.
I'll start putting things in it.

These are books about visual arts,
and this all is visual arts.

That is all.
I don't have anymore...

They had a clause that the applicant

if he proved some kind of talent

he didn't have to have
a graduation in the high school

which was really an opening for
working-class background students

who didn't go to a high school...

So I thought this is a chance for me,

and so I filled it up.

And, having some experience with
communist bureaucracy

I lied and I said I did graduate
the high school

and they invited me to an audition.

And I spent, before that,
six weeks in a university library

and learnt everything I could about films.

And 300 people... were first day...

showed up, and they would
every day cut off 50 percent.

And the last day, we were about twelve.

And I got lucky.

I was among those six they accepted.


But after three years, they found out
that I did not graduate

and that I actually was
a bourgeois background guy

and so they kicked me out.

But it was too late,
I already liked movies.

The department of direction - that's the
place where I studied direction.

I was admitted in 1992.

I climbed up the stairs
to the second floor now.

I remember that Otakar Vávra,
who taught here and was a huge personality

he was more than 80 and he always
ran up the stairs, a bit quicker than me.

This is the place where all the famous
directors of the New Wave studied.

And not only them.

I have experienced, as a student,
that Jiří Menzel taught here.

He was actually
the head of the department.

Věra Chytilová taught here,

Karel Kachyňa, in whose film I once acted,
had his seminars here...

The head of the department
is now Jan Němec

and it was possible to meet
all these idols

from the '60s here and to talk to them.

That is where the New Wave was born,

partly here and partly in another
building in Klimentská Street.

Let me introduce you to
the film's director - Radim Špaček.

Věra Chytilová and Evald Schorm
were my close friends.

I sat next to Věra during
the entire four years.

And Evald was... Well, they were both
older than me. I was a goggle-eyed nitwit.

I was a bit of an "enfant terrible".
And Evald was always wisely reprimanding me.

If the 60's, that period had a saint
it would be Evald Schorm.

The worst part is behind us.

Anxiety is, as they say,
fear of our fear.

Now there's only fear left.
We know what we're up to.

What is good and what is bad?

A man can be wrong even if he's right.

And the other way round.

Of the Czech directors,
I quite liked Evald Schorm.

He was a very wise person

who could create an atmosphere
on the shoot

in which he didn't
even have to direct much,

but people were trying their best
to do what he wanted.

He was a friendly kind
of an authority to me.

What Schorm and I had in common was...

he liked documentary film.

In both documentary
and fiction filmmaking,

we would sometimes both be working
simultaneously on the same theme

without me or him knowing
it was happening.

Silence there!

Initially, the story was about us girls

fooling around at the student dormitory
where we lived.

That's where it started, but
then when I found the people

I stylised the film more
than I had planned to...

I collaborated with Ester Krombachová

and I was interested in
finding a new approach...

She showed that costume design

is a major part of the language of cinema.
Thank God for that!

But she influenced Czech cinema also as a
screenwriter and dramaturge.

She directed only one movie and I worked
on it with her, and it was a bit off.

So she's less visible as a director, but
was a big influence on many colleagues,

not only the people
from the New Wave

but also Vávra, Kachyňa,
other older directors.

Because she was a catalyst,
she brought fresh air, she brought ideas.

It's all messed up.

Everyone has their backs to the camera,
and Ester Krumbachová faces it.

Věra Chytilová, who did
very, very different movies

because her first one was

very realist,
it was like a para-documentary film.

And the second one,
Daisies, was one of the

most crazy and anarchistic movies
I've ever seen.

Until now I am showing it to my students,
and they love it.

I had an ambition to explore all the
possibilities of film language...

so I wanted to do every film
in a different way...

Different! So that every movie
is different...

I didn't what to do what I'd already done...

And the serpent said to the woman:

Ye shall not surely die!

Ye shall not surely die!

Ye shall not surely die!

On the day ye eat thereof

your eyes shall be opened

and ye shall be as gods

knowing both good and evil.

Chytilová was wild,
Chytilová was someone with

an anarchistic element in her,
which I like a lot.

She was breaking all the rules,
she was a wild animal among them.

She had a lot of faces. And most importantly,
she was a beautiful girl.

She was almost thirty
when she started studying at FAMU.

Prior to that, she was used to
a life amongst rich people

always in cafe's and so on.

And suddenly, she started
living like a student.

When she was almost 30.
I appreciated that.

When we were walking together
to the school canteen to have lunch

guys were turning their heads
around and wanted to ask her out.

And then she was telling me
about the dates.

Because she was intelligent,
she could always look through the guys.

And then she was describing to me
how the guys tried to conquer her.

That was an education for me,
because through her eyes

at once I saw
what idiots we men are.

I am glad that I got to know her.
She was an exceptional woman.

She was a vibrant, honest,
healthy person with sensible opinions.

She started doing completely different
movies than me. I was a bit more critical.

As was she towards me.
She didn't like my movies very much.

I never cared about
leaving a legacy behind.

After I'm gone...


Thank you for being here!
We are glad to be here, too.

I've been part of this school
for so long,

because this is where I started...

and this is something
few people remember...

I persuaded Zápotocký,
the Prime Minister,

to get us free passes
to cinemas and theatres.


He said,
"You can have three wishes."

The first was
the building in Klimentská Street,

which is owned by FAMU now.

I don't know when it happened before

that such mutual energy
joined in one place.

That cultural blossom,
this renaissance of 1968

taught us lot of things we'd later
use in our films and in our lives.

The teachers there
were unwanted by the regime.

But we found their perspective amazing.

Thanks to them we knew what freedom was.

For example, I was taught
by the now world-famous

writer Milan Kundera,

Professor Kratochvíl, Rector Brousil.

They introduced us to
world cinema as well.

And suddenly to our surprise,
we found out that in Italy

you could make films freely
and without any restrictions.

But Neorealists
were against the government.

I'd known Milan Kundera
for a long time because

he was a famous poet, and suddenly,
I saw him teaching at FAMU.

Milan Kundera was always late.

He was always late.

And as he showed up late,
he would ask...

He would say this sentence,

"What do you want me
to tell you about?"

And out of that huge universe
that modern literature is -

and to him, modern literature
included the past few centuries -

he was able to start lecturing
about absolutely anything.

Or he would pick a book

he would open a book by Sartre

read a passage from it
and discuss it with us.

Everything was, more or less, with
some kind of eroticism and sexuality...

So this was a huge discussion about
'orgasm' for, like, five hours.

We loved him, not because he was
a handsome, young, slender man

but because he had some sort of energy,
intellectual energy.

He said, "It would feel dumb
to sit in a lecture hall

with just four people. Let's meet
across the street at Debonais."

It was a small wine bar.

And we said, "But Professor,
we are students, we are poor!"

"We don't have the money
to spend in a wine bar."

And he goes, "I said I would
teach you at a wine bar

I invited you there,
so I'm going to pay for you."

You know, I lectured in
many film schools since

and I very often would go
to other people's classes

just to see how they are doing it.

And I've never seen anybody
better than Milan Kundera.

My best friend
from my home village.

Dear Vojtěch,
all the best on your 90th birthday!

- I'm enjoying this.
- Let's make it 120!

It is exactly 90 years since a great
patriot was born in Kelč - Vojtěch Jasný.

He was one of the first FAMU students.
In 1946, he enrolled in this department,

and the directing department,
studying at two departments.

Then he launched
an important film career,

at first, making short films
with Karel Kachyňa...

followed by important Czechoslovak movies -
Desire, I Survived Certain Death

and some of the best Czech films

All My Good Countrymen and
The Cassandra Cat.

I also liked walking backwards
with the camera.

And I also rotated around my axis.

- He's good right?
- Yes.

Forman described Jasný as a, sort of,
'spiritual father' of the Czech New Wave.

He is right.

I made it possible
for Miloš Forman to make films.

They didn't want to let him shoot.

One of the Czech novelists,
Josef Škvorecký,

said that the artistic common sense was
always gnawing at the, sort of, ideology.

And so, when filmmakers
had the opportunity to

sort of, break the limits,
they did so.

Karel Kachyňa, Vojtěch Jasný
and František Vláčil

were kind of precursors, predecessors
of the New Wave.

I usually don't record
my visual concept

by describing it verbally...
That would be time-consuming.

I prefer doing it in
minor pictorial sketches.

I must say I was nine in 1959
when I met him.

I knew what a screenplay was
but I didn't grasp that particular one.

I didn't understand it.

But the more fantastic I found the way

the adults - not only Vláčil -
communicated with me.

Since I had acted before,
I felt this group of people

was creating something different.

The way they communicated
was completely different

from what I knew from
other film shoots.

And as the little boy I was,
I felt their incredible desire

to express something but I didn't
exactly understand what it was.

What made an impression on me was
that it was the first time

I heard somebody thoroughly discussing
what the camera was supposed to do

what compositions they would use

how important it was for me to stand
facing this way or this way

because of the lights they set up.

That was where I realised,
thanks to other situations as well -

that František was actually
an image artist.

I think František Vláčil is one of the
best directors ever in Europe.

Not known, but giving me, a kind of,
strength to think with the image.

Out of all literary forms
that come close to filmmaking,

I think it's poetry.

It's already in the structure of
individual verses

that give a different meaning:

a structure so similar
to that of film

where arrangement of two shots

which may have a different
semantic and aesthetic quality,

creates, through film-editing,
a third meaning

that may have not been directly
present in those two original shots.

Now which one is... Mr. Hanák?

Let's call!

What's the number?

What does this say?

It's a university, and... this is...
they are some... I think monks... or nuns.

And this we don't know who it is!

No. This says... M.D.H. It's Duš...

Ah! That could be him,
because DH has initial letters

letters Dušan Hanák.
That could be it!

Hi, Dušan, Martin Huba speaking.

Hi. Sorry to bother you,
but I was asked a favour.

The thing is they're
shooting an interview with me

for a documentary about Jirka Menzel.

They've spoken to you,
but they're a bit afraid of you.

You didn't seem to be too pleased
about their visit

so they're asking if they could come

to say good-bye and
give you a little present.

...that they'd send questions,
but haven't sent any.

To me, that's being irresponsible.

Tell them I said thank you very much.

OK, thanks!

He was rather stern.

It seems you promised him questions,
but didn't send any.

And I don't know what else.

He says thank you for
the present, but

he's somewhere else,
so maybe next time.

He also said,
that they were irresponsible.

He was expecting questions
because he said he...

But we've sent it to him.

Oh! He said he didn't receive any.

Yes, oh yes, as we agreed
together before this take

we really like the school,
and you must not

badmouth or scandalise the school.

Mr. Nemec, didn't you get a prize
while still at FAMU?

I got a prize in Amsterdam.
As for FAMU, it gave me nothing

except education,
a correct attitude towards

society, art, women,
alcohol, religion.

In fact, it gave me everything.

First shot of the Diamonds of the Night
basically is my major piece of filmmaking.

And it was my idea to have it
in one shot - the movement of the train

these boys jumping out of the train going
through the river and to the mountains

to the moment they are exhausted and sit,
say they cannot run more.

For this shot, we built special,
sort of, rail, on the top of the hill

This was built about one month

and... so, cost of the one shot

was one-third of the production
of the whole film.

Diamonds of the Night,
what he does with sound

with the atmosphere, that's unique.

I am completely independent for the -

not socialism, communism,
you know, no capitalism.

Every time I was doing it,
as Frank Sinatra said it,

"I did it my own way."

I think his movies will outlive us all

because they are filmed for the future,
for a completely different audience.

He had a different relationship
to the film than we had.

We made more or less
distributional movies.

He was, in my opinion, an artist.
He was obsessed with film.

I'm leaving through this door
and nobody will see me again.

Goodbye! Bye!

I think without FAMU,
there would be no New Wave

and I wouldn't become a director.

It's said, each of them, or
almost each one, started out

wanting to do something
completely different than directing.

Evald Schorm wanted to do opera

Jiří Menzel originally wanted
to do theatre.

Petr Weigl wanted to do ballet, but they
didn't let him since he was homosexual.

Schorm was turned down for opera,
Menzel was turned down for theatre.

FAMU was a kind of second option for them,
which is highly paradoxical.

On top of that, that graduating
class was interesting

in that they were a really diverse crew.

Between Věra Chytilová,
the oldest in the year, and

Jiří Menzel, there was
an age gap of over 9 years.

I was at school - I was the oldest,
and he was the youngest -

and we were sitting together
at the same bench

because when I came to the classroom,
all the seats were already taken.

Only the first bench was free.
So I sat there and

there was a free seat next to me.

And then Menzel came gasping for air
and he sat next to me.

We practiced some part of theatrical
inscenation and of course we were all cast

because one of us was a director
and the others had to play in it.

And I know that when he directed
Věra Chytilová with Evald Schorm,

Evald said, "You are like a sun,
you are like a sunflower."

He said that to Chytilová, which was
very unusual, and in one moment Jiří -

because he was, or he is, very lively -
he took a chair and threw it at them.

And that belonged... It isn't even a funny
story, it belonged to his vision,

because he wanted it in one way
and those two acted it differently,

so he sorted it out in this dramatic way.

I remember how we'd make a scene
in a workshop at the film faculty,

he would go second and he did not know
at that moment what the actor should do

so that it would be interesting.

So he would lie down on a bench and say,

"Direct all the head lights at me,
I need to

light up my head... get some idea!"

You can see that even though Menzel
puts on airs of being very conventional,

there is a bit of
a wild artist in him as well.

Stop shooting!

I am becoming a bit nervous
because of it.

It isn't sunny anyway.

We went for a family trip on
the River Vltava

and I liked the way
the stokers stoked up the coal.

I did not want to be just a stoker

so I told myself that I will
become the main stoker.

But then I wanted to become a waiter,
and many other professions.

Only when I was 15 or 16,
my theatre era began.

Shot 24... Take 1

I fell asleep, guys.

It is interesting that
when I met Jirka Menzel

and he took me to his
flat for the first time

he used to live in a different flat then

I went there and was astonished
to see that he lived in his bed.

He could reach everything from his bed.

I remembered the slapstick comedy,
I am not sure if it was Chaplin

who was in his bed and he pulled something
and breakfast would come

he would pull something else
and trousers would come...

You know the comedy, don't you?

That was the way Jirka Menzel
used to live.

Everything was in his reach
and if something was not

he called his sister, Hanička,
and she brought it.

He had a TV in front of him, a video

I don't know, a telephone,
he had everything.

He could live in his bed,
he did not have to get out of it.

I realised that Miloš Forman

has a very similar lifestyle as well

he also spends his life in his bed!

So these Czech guys who collect Oscars,
I don't know about young Svěrák

love to live in their bed!

I think he learned me,
in this period, how to

create the... an idea about
the hero, or anti-hero.

The one who enters the world
with a laziness

I would say, even coming from,
designed in...

the tradition of
some kind of Russian literature

in which laziness, resistance,
and I would say,

not very active
but more passive hero,

was like in a model.

So he himself...

He looks like this but
in fact he is very energetic

and he is very,
I would say, sometimes a bully.

Very strong! But he always acts
like somebody with

low blood-pressure and
with a distance to the world

which gives him a chance
to make it funnier than it is.

My professor, Otakar Vávra

was in fact the father of this cinema.

Whenever I make the movie, I always
try to remember his basic suggestions

that he was doing while three years
he was giving us his lessons.

And I always remember him
for this kind of attitude.

And, I would say, as I said before,
tectonic approach to the cinema

that cinema is not just...
you're based on the strong conflict.

He said always.
And I always remember this.

Without strong conflict, you cannot make
audience 2 hours or 3 hours being seated.

Please come in!


Hello! Nice to meet you!
Nice to meet you!


Coffee? Tea?

They came here primarily
because of Vávra this time,

they already had an appointment
fixed with him.

They have already made
an appointment with Mrs. Němcová

and now they're feeling very sorry
that he died.

They waited the whole year
and they came mainly because of him.

Yes, it is unfortunate,
but you can talk to

his wife who knows
everything about him.

Jitka is a miracle.
She is his student, 40 years younger,

and she used to take care of him daily
till the last day, which wasn't easy.

She shot her own films

and along with that she
managed to take care of Vávra

in a very special... unkind,
but still loving way.

I am very grateful to her for what
she had done for him, for my professor.

Thanks to her he had a very
comfortable old age. That is very nice.

I, of course, feel sad
that my professor passed away.

I am grateful to him for many things.

Apart from my parents,
I learned the most from my professor.

Otakar Vávra had two loves,
actually three -

me, Jiří Menzel, and Emir Kusturica.

Menzel more than me, I think.
They loved each other immensely.

I am not admirer... he is just opposite.

First step, when he entered the school as
a chief of the directing department,

he said no to my diploma work's
screenplay film ready for production,

and he just stopped it!

And I was very close to say,
"I'll never finish the school".

And he just exercised his power
that everybody was afraiding him.

This is the BIRTH OF FAMU.

You can see what it looks like...

It's wonderful...
such a great school later...

Yes, what else do we have here?

What's needed here... another VHS...

Party Congress in Nuremberg, 1934.
Wow! That's great, really!

Baarová was already there
with that Goebbels, great.

Here are some albums.

This is the Czech Technical University
in Brno

because Vávra studied architecture

a course he never finished.

Here are his designs, look!
These are truly incredible.

Creating a movie,
it's like building a house,

that you have to go from
the foundation to the roof

that you have to have the strong sense
of something very tectonic

vertical, horizontal, and as strong as

the formal reaction
you could have to some pieces...

of architecture that belong
to the history of art.

Otakar Vávra made many good films,
following one after another.

He wanted to make films properly,
which is why,

already during the war,

he invented a system for teaching
new filmmakers after the war.

He prepared four years of lectures for us

which taught us everything
we should know about our profession.

And when he died two years ago,
in 2011, he left me the lectures.

He never got the lectures copied.
That means that they are nowhere else.

It is only me who has them.

I have taken them and I followed Vávra.
I teach them here at FAMU.

First of all, the beginning
of the lectures is beautiful.

He reminds us that film is an art,

and that film can sometimes
get ahead of literature.

I also think that the Czech New Wave
would not have happened

if Professor Otakar Vávra did not help
nationalise Czechoslovak cinema in 1945.

On one hand, he was a great filmmaker.

But there was also...

He was able to conform to the regime,

he was able to make regime-friendly films.

You know?

Vávra was the head of Věra Chytilová's
class, but we had lectures with him...

on directing, on evolution of drama...
I respected him as a professor so much!

I finished my studies by making a movie

Fugue on the Black Keys
under his guidance, not under Wassermann's.

I also was Vávra's assistant director for
Romance for Bugle.

I had very ambiguous relations with Vávra
when he was teaching me

because he was very, you know,
very ambiguous man.

His biography was very,
very complex and complicated.

And I was very uncompromising
young person.

So he wasn't the authority to me.

But I think he was a great teacher.

It means, he was able
to give the insurance,

to give some kind of the faith
in the cinema to those students,

and most of the students
from the generation

of the New Wave really admired him.

And just recently after his death

I read some papers from my prison files

which I didn't know, of course...

and I learned that Vávra was
helping me enormously

giving me very good opinion that
I'm great communist and socialist person

that I am a... blah, blah...

just to save me from being thrown out
from the school.

So, also politically,
he wasn't so black and white

as some people described him.

I think Vávra probably is the
quintessence of the 20th century -

in the filmmaking, in the politics,
the destiny of the man

who went through
different totalitarian regimes

and a bit like Zelig, try to know to
change himself to accommodate.

But in the same time, you know, he...

He kept something which was
the most important for him

the faith that making movies
is very important thing.

Hurray, it's the Red Army!

There is peace!

People accuse Vávra of being
a servant of the regime... it's not true.

What they blame him for, they can
blame the whole generation for.

I later found in my life

that making cinema is
much more important than

directly supporting just one
political option or another.

That process of making an alliance
with every government is far beyond me.

I can't talk about my professor
without positive words

because he taught me things
I never could've learnt anywhere else

except for here at FAMU in Prague.

Elia Kazan was getting his
lifelong achievement Academy Award

and I will never forget the TV screen.

The audience didn't get up.

For lifelong achievement Academy Award!

But they somehow couldn't
forget, they couldn't say

"Oh, that's OK.
That was in the '50s".

The same year, Vávra was getting his
lifelong achievement award

in Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

and I was sitting there

and I was so curious whether
the Czech audience or Czech filmmakers

would give this kind of honour
and give him standing ovation.

They did!

When the whole New Wave came,
Vávra used to teach them.

But then he made two of his best films,
Romance for Bugle and Golden Queen,

and thereafter Witchhammer

at the same time when Menzel, Chytilová,
Jakubisko, and others used to shoot.

That means that in his older age,
he had the same poetics like them.

After the screening of
Romance for Bugle, I told Otakar Vávra

"Professor, you are as good as
the New Wave!"

And he said, "What do you mean?
I can't stand the New Wave!"

But at the start of Normalisation,
he once again

became a turncoat,
and recorded propaganda films.

Light Penetrates the Dark -
have you heard about that?

That is a three-minute film,
the first film by Otakar Vávra.

It's a musical piano, a wonderful film.
Take it as you want, it's amazing.

Wow, get a look at him!

Such a gentle young boy!

I know that one, it's all Vávra.

Here he is with his brother,
who was eight years older.

And he wrote... "A hned má hlad".
He was a writer.

And they really cared about each other,
I have to say.

When he started going out
with me, his brother said,

"But Vávra, you'll get
bored of fucking one day."

But I have to say
he stuck it out a fair bit.

It was a relationship that was
based on great tactfulness.

It was a relationship based on talking.

When he lost his sight,
I used to read books to him.

He used to read books to me before that.

He would read books to me
for twenty years.

And I'd read books to him
for twenty years.

We exchanged the roles a bit.

He was one of the best narrators.

He knew what a story
is supposed to look like.

Not only did he know this, but he was
a great analyst as well.

When I shot my films, I could never
show them to him...

he would crush them.

I showed them to him only when
they were ready, never before that.

And when I showed them to him then
in the end,

he told me about my mistakes
and of course, he was right.

Sometimes he wouldn't say, because
when there were many mistakes,

I threatened not to give him dinner.
So he kept his mouth shut.

He was a great partner,
we were together for 41 years,

from morning to evening,
from evening 'til morning.

He is still with me, that is how it is.

When we were in our first year,
he called us all and told us,

"Okay, so you all want to be directors,
don't you?"

"You can still change your mind
because, as UNESCO says

test pilots have
the highest mortality rate

and second place belongs to
film directors."

And this Otakar Vávra,
who was telling us

this information,
lived to be 100 years old.

I sometimes say "Czech",
sometimes "Czechoslovak" wave,

as it was only me who was a member

of some sort of Czechoslovak Wave

because my friends and
all the others kept a certain distance.

So, although I shot
my first film in Slovakia

I was more a part of the Czech wave

because we understood each other better.

When I asked my colleagues,
like Hanák, Havetta,

to start a Slovak 'branch'
of the wave as well, to join it,

everybody said,
"Well, I have other problems",

or "I don't think it's
politically feasible",

"I have my problems",
or "I don't have a prop master"

or "I just cannot do it in anyway".

So, in fact, I was alone.

It would be a bit unfair
to say that I was alone

since there was
Slovak film director Štefan Uher,

who made a film called
The Sun in a Net,

and everybody said that this was
a sort of precursor, an inspiration.

Don't move your arm!

You are a good-for-nothing.

- There's going to be solar eclipse.
- Your arm!

Shall we watch it together...?

Dear Bela,

you don't care about snowdrops or eclipses.

Your problem is you hate staying in.

Is that why you said,
"Let's go to the roof?"

I could have looked at you in the street.

The Sun in a Net
is a mix of documentary film

and psychological painting.

That's Uher's method.

Stanislav Barabáš was
among the first FAMU graduates

and shot Song of a Grey Dove (1961).

Second important
FAMU graduate was Peter Solan

I know Solan, because we got on very well.

And Barabáš was
my lifelong intimate friend.

And after the Occupation
he left Czechoslovakia.

And he wanted me to leave too,

that if we both left,
we would find better jobs

and he even got me a job
in a Canadian TV station.

But I couldn't force myself
to leave Slovakia.

1950s graduate Martin Hollý joined them.

All three of them brought new topics
into Slovakian cinema. New topics!

That's enough!
To the right!


More - keep pulling!

Damn it! Move it!

C'mon, move!

Damn it!


Jump to the rope!

Grab the rope!

Leave it and jump!


You've got it!

Hanák, Havetta, Jakubisko...

each one of them is different.

Each one has his own style,

which is what makes them interesting.

Films by these three directors

who are the main representatives
apart from Uher -

three most prominent
Slovak directors of the 60s.

Because it brought great desire to
experiment and great...

spontaneous playfulness.

They weren't afraid to break taboos,
to break the rules.

So, I can say I'm the most popular
director, sort of, in Slovakia.

I'm, in fact, sort of a 'Slovak Menzel'.

Havetta and Jakubisko were friends,
from high school, VŠUP

where they both studied photography.

Juro came to FAMU a year before Havetta.

He was one year ahead.

He was the one to convince Eliáš
to study at FAMU.

They made a lot of things together,
such as St Nicholas Day newsreels

original and funny things.

They were both witty and artists...

very gifted!

Later, they started heading
in different directions

but during their studies,
they were friends.

I know one thing, you love me.

- No, I don't.
- Yes, you do.


I will not lie to myself.

Better to kill myself....

My parents and brother didn't die.

They perished like sick animals.

And the others...

You understand...

I felt closest to the works of Havetta.
They were most acceptable for me.

It was something that...
I don't know where the tradition...

I would...

see it also in Parajanov

or in what came from the East.

It was something between
Babel, Parajanov and...

and a kind of
satirised Slovak reality.

I think that documentaries,
as a specific kind of film,

and fiction films can sometimes
influence each other

and they do, in the history of cinema.

We wanted to make films
about life as it really was.

But we were only allowed to make
films about how life should look.

By that I mean the future. And that
was not compatible with cinema,

that has a documentary character
after all.

It records reality, not illusions.

And so our defiance began.

Defiance against the rules
set by the regime.

It's a film about an individual,
one very strong individualist

that hated everyone else in the group.

Because individuality is different

and doesn't blend in with the crowd.

And that's the subtext that motivated me.

That's why I was
so attracted to this topic.

Of course, it's a film about love, too.
Unfulfilled love and so on.

But it's essential to say that it's
a film about disdain of the crowd too.

For example, the scene where the village
is deciding the fate of the Dragon

and they are talking as the Central Committee
of the Communist Party did

when they were asking each other,
"What to do with Grečner?"

It seems to me that Slovak films
are more emotional.

Perhaps you could say that they are,

sort of, more honest, more heartfelt...

Slovaks have their Slovak context,
cultural context,

some approach to folklore

which they wanted
to revolutionise and modernise.

They had a completely
unsentimental approach.

It wasn't that important to Czechs.

In the Czech New Wave,

the emphasis was on a psychological
approach to things

and a social approach to things.

Have they announced it?

They announced the abdication
of President Novotný.

There were movements for change
from '63 onwards.

So you're looking at a progression.

And I think, there was... while there was
movement for change within the arts

there was also
a movement for change

within society and
insofar as it was possible.

But this didn't really come to head

until '68 with the removal
of President Novotný

who, shall we say, was an
old-style communist

and his replacement by Alexander Dubček,
who oversaw the Prague Spring.

They were trying to introduce
greater degrees of democracy

towards the end
they were trying to introduce

workers' councils, workers' control...
they never got that far.

And as Dubček put it, the idea was
the widest possible democratisation.

He came up with a slogan,
"Socialism with a Human Face"

which was automatically
really saying that what

was there before
didn't have a human face.

In my case, The Elective Affinities
meant that communists and anti-communists

you understand...

united for some time.

They realised they needed each other

and that they would be happier
in a different mutual relationship.

And it only lasted those eight months.

You understand?

For eight months,
Czechs lived in a different structure.

And those eight months in 1968

stood for a great intellectual power
of this nation, which still lasts today.

This afternoon I'll be writing a speech...

If it's cleverly used, it'll be true...

This is the harvest period,
for the film people.

Let's have lunch now...

Afterwards I'm to call up some people.

I'm working on the final version

for the Central Committee
plenary session.

So we'll talk afterwards, right?

- We're off to lunch.
- We'll be here.

To explain what is the Czech culture

I think that's the best image
I can give you

is writers, filmmakers, singers -
all these guys and girls

rent a balcony on
opposite side of the square

and find someone half-crazy actor or

I don't know,
person from the street probably.

They wait with him, when Dubček went
on balcony and huge crowd start to scream

at the same moment, this crazy guy
appeared on this balcony on opposite side

and they start to applaud him.

So they were laughing in probably the most
important moment of new Czech history.

They have these things.

They didn't fall in pathetic moment
and start to cry or big Czech and so on.

So, if you want to explain
what is the Czech New Wave...

that's it.

They were laughing to themselves
in very dramatic moments.

I shot the icon of Prague Spring,
that is Dubček

and even worse,
I was making fun of them.

We captured director Jiří Menzel
and cameraman Jaromír Šofr

working on the final scenes
of the new film.

Bohumil Hrabal wrote the screenplay.

He published the book "Larks on a String",
which was short stories from the 50s

about the stupidity of the regime.

It was beautifully written!
And I said to myself then

that it was a pity that
we couldn't make a movie about it

because the Bolsheviks
would never allow us to

make fun of the silly things
they did in the 50s.

It wasn't silly as much as tragic, though.

And that's exactly what
the stories were about.

It was merciless
as much as funny.

It happened that Dubček came,
the atmosphere changed

and the communists suddenly realised
the regime can't be as hard as it was.

And right out of the blue
they cancelled the censorship.

Prague Spring was about relaxing the rules
that had been put in place

by those horrible communists
under Moscow's patronage.

Many of them were murderers,
they set up concentration camps.

You understand?

And the point was
to get rid of all of that.

It was an amazing time

of great hopes

and growing optimism among people.

I was surprised to find

that they still could be optimistic
after all those years.

We didn't know what to do first -
watch TV, listen to the radio

or go out and walk in the streets.

We asked several people
in that month of August 1968

"What is their greatest wish?"

A young woman -"That the beautiful
National Spring doesn't end too soon...

that I may be able to bring up
my sons in its spirit."

An old woman - "That I
get back my apartment

which was unlawfully taken away
from me two years ago."

A hippie - "The most important
thing is love. War is crap."

The beautiful thing was
he called me to his office

read the screenplay for
All My Good Countrymen and said

"You can make this film your way
and nobody's going to interfere."

"You can do whatever you like.
You are the boss now."

That was beautiful.

It was thanks to Dubček.

In such a short period,
utopia happened and utopia died.

It was basically six or seven months.

And you know how long you
are preparing the movies.

So basically in result, practically,
only few films were done in this freedom...

One was this Menzel
film which was banned;

one was this Kachyňa film
which was banned later.

I could finally shoot The Cremator.

What about the President
becoming a granddad?

Is that classified information too?
Can the Ear hear that?

Listen, Ear, Comrade President
is a granddad.

It's a boy. Everything's fine.

The mother, unfortunately,
hasn't got enough milk.



I walked and walked

through the green meadow

through the green meadow

Honoured guests director Jiří Menzel,
Václav Neckář, Jitka Zelenohorská

together with the audience marked 40 years
since Larks on a string was made.

The filmmakers shot it in Kladno.

Socialist-era songs, waving ribbons,
banners, red scarves

and a kiss for the director
from a girl Pioneer.

The organisers of the event
recreated the atmosphere of the 1950s

in which the plot of
Larks on a string is set.

What is interesting is that
I had a Saab, a new car

and it had seatbelts, which was new,
cars didn't have belts then.

I was driving Mr. Šofr to the stage

and he noticed the seatbelts,
so he fastened his.

We were driving to Kladno to film,
and there was this road, which...

It started raining, so the road was slippery
and I did a full turn, 360 degree!

We went to the field
and ended up on the side.

So as we were sitting.

Mr. Šofr, who until then
was talking about something

he stopped, we were looking around

and suddenly he said, "Where was I?"

And he wanted to resume our
conversation. That was genius.

All that you can see here will be
smelted down into high-grade steel.

We'll make tractors out of this steel
to plough our fields.

We'll make more washing machines
so you can wash your dirty overalls.

These are our voluntary workers

mostly of bourgeois origin.

We'll also smelt them down...

into a new kind of people.

When all of a sudden you can look back
truthfully at that recent past

which everyone remembers how
they experienced it

but they couldn't see the real picture
anywhere in literature, in film

because it was a false, ideological
picture that the regime wanted.

In that sense, in fact...

that film was highly dangerous
for the communist bigwigs

because it was not only revelatory
in a precise way

but was witty and pointed too.

And, of course, it hurts to see
the true picture

but when the audience laughs at it,
it hurts twice as much.

Which is why Larks on a String
caused such bother.

I remembered a joke from the 50s...

There is some training
going on for workers...

a comrade is teaching
his comrade workers...

teaching them how good
it is that we have socialism

and that we will have communism...

so he speaks, he lectures,
then asks if there are questions

and a worker raises his hand and says

"It's good that we have socialism
and that we will have communism."

"But where is the milk, and
the meat and the bread?"

And the comrade said

"That's an interesting question, but
I'll answer it only next time."

And the next week, the next
lecture was scheduled.

So the next lecture ended and
he again asked, "Any questions?"

And another man says,
"It's nice there will be communism."

"But where is the bread, milk, meat?"

"And where is that worker
who asked about it last week?"

We really would like to know
what happened to dairyman.

And where's the professor of philosophy?

And where are the good days...

- Yes, yes, yes.
- ...when people respected

and loved each other?

What a nice person!
Who is he?

A prematurely-wise person...

That was the joke which made me realise...

Aha! We have to put one in jail,
then a second and a third...

and that made
the structure of the movie.

I'm very proud of the idea.
Naturally, Hrabal wrote it beautifully.

I shot it in the naïve belief that
the communists can reform themselves...

and when we joked about
how stupid they were

that they would stop doing
this kind of nonsense

for example, sending intellectuals
to be part of the production line...

But I was the stupid one,
because I didn't realise

that the Bolsheviks can't
reform themselves.

I think that the best scene was

- I was in that scene only
for a little bit -

when Mr. Šmeral came
as Minister Nejedlý.

That was such a wonderful scene!

That's why the communists
cut it out straight away.

I think it's one of the greatest
films of Czech cinema

especially as a paragon
of mixing comedy and tragedy.

I would rank it alongside
The Shop on Main Street

which is also a film
with great comic scenes

even though it is a drama.

That was the only case when I myself
decided what should be filmed.

All the other films I made,
someone had offered me.

Look at me! Good!

Sit, please!

Czech culture...
I call it existential humour.

That's... Švejk.

That's the style of
the most typical Czech...

cultural figure.

And Menzel belongs here.

His irony...
that's all from Švejk

and from the author
that Menzel likes to adapt.

Now I can't... Cutting it Short

Hrabal is a successor of Švejk.

Did you hear anything about
a soldier Švejk, named Švejk?

- Švejk? A Soldier?
- Yeah.


Well, it's a popular figure
in our literature, you see?

- Did you hear about him?
- Well, no, you tell me about him!

Well, it's such a funny soldier,
he was in the army

and always making fun
of everything around, you see?

And we saw, as you are such a man
making fun of all and laughing at all

you can know about this man too.

Well, where is he from?
He's a Czech boy?

He's already... Well it's...

It's just a story about him,
from the First World War.

Oh yeah! I see!

Well, we shall send you the book of him.

Yeah, ok, I'd love to read about him
because before my time, I was just a kid.

We are quite a small community
which is oppressed

from the Germans from one side
and from the Russians from the other side.

And we can't fight them either way

not with the arms,
and not with the military

but we are fighting them with humour.

That's the only thing we can do
against those big powers.

And probably, that's the root
from where the Czech humour comes.

"Oh, cats' ball...
is better than dogs' dance."

"And a cat crawls through a hole,
and a dog crawls through a window."

"The cat's king himself..."
I can't remember how it goes.

My memory...

No dogs were invited

No mice were allowed

When all of a sudden

A mouse appeared in the crowd

Oh, the cat's ball

In the cat house

Is the one place

Which is no good for a...


All of us grew up in the spirit of
the Liberated Theatre.

In the spirit of the Liberated Theatre,
Suchý and Šlitr started the Semafor.

It was something completely different

but the first reason was humour,
to make people laugh.

But they were intelligent people
who had a certain education

so the humour in Semafor was wonderful.

At that time, it was also the biggest
or the most frequented theatre.

A bit later, the Cimrman Theatre emerged.

It took intellectual humour
to an even higher level.

It's intellectual, but accessible
to everyone

who has finished at least high school.

When the national television had a poll
to find the greatest Czech of all time

Cimrman won,
even though he never existed.

Their whole theatre is based
on a mystification

about an alleged historical Czech person

who was a forgotten inventor
who invented just about everything.

And this is what I consider
representative of good Czech humour.

Being poetic, ironic
and using mystification.

So we lived knowing, 'You can't do this.
Look out!' 'Be careful! '

And humour, the jokes people told,
were a liberating social adhesive

when you told them in a group
of people you trusted...

the laughter made you feel
that we all think the same.

It was binding us together, the humour.

And when you're helpless,
you turn to very dark humour.

It's our way to face death.
We know we can't defeat death.

None of us can. But fighting back
with humour is beautiful. Liberating.

Dear children!
I think you all know me well!

I'm sure Jirka recognised me
straight away...

Dear children!
I think you all know me well!

I'm sure Jirka recognised me straight
away, and so did Alenka in the back.

I'm your old friend,
the Long, Broad and Sharpsight.

Yes, you're probably missing
my two partners: Long and Broad.

You must be wondering,
where are they hiding from us?

They aren't hiding, dear children.
They died!

Films had humour, you know?

And humour... it sounds
paradoxical nowadays, but...

you have to imagine the...
very narrow-minded type of government

and they were anxious that

humour could bring something like,
you know, open mindness.

We were not allowed to fight
the Russians with weapons.

But, you know, the films and movies

let's say, I think they
made a lot of damages

to their 'peaceful' face, what
they were trying to show to the world.

This is what upset the Russians.

They knew that this kind of democracy

- whatever they said in
terms of propaganda -

they knew that this kind of democracy
was a threat to the Soviet system.

All of us knew it was a sensitive matter,
because it was right after 1968.

We spent there whole vacations,
many days, just to shoot it

and we saw the film only after 20 years.
They did not release it.

You two hold your hands

and pretend to look joyfully
into each other's eyes.

That's it.

And there will be
the following commentary

about the two of you.

We're doing all this for our future,
for the future of our young new people

who love each other, who raise families
to have lovely children...

who will never again know war,
suffering, but ever lasting peace.

I was ready to cry.

I'm sorry,
it's just that...

It was clear to us all

that this would be the
last time we'd see it.

So then it took 20 years

before they released the film.

I'm sorry!

You have beautiful eyes.

It's a nice film.

But I think that

the concentration camps
were much more cruel.

And it's a kind of a soap opera
set in a concentration camp.

And philosophy is deeper
than just quoting Kant.

The film quotes Kant.

It's a bit more complicated.

And Kant was talking
about more essential things

that are absent in Menzel's thinking.

So I don't care about that film.
But it's a nice film.

The movie was screened after 25 years
and it got the Golden Bear Award

and there when they asked
me how I felt, I said it's sad.

Over 25 years, our lives and careers
could've gone on a different path.

I guess it's a very powerful,
comic portrait of communism.

I don't know of any similar film
which actually deals with that era

and deals with it as comedy.

In fact, I think
Menzel and Hrabal were

criticised for having
treated it as comedy, even.

And Menzel said somewhere
around the time that he...

he believed one needed to transcend
these things and be able to laugh at them

even though they were, in fact, tragic and
even though people were being persecuted

imprisoned, killed,
whatever because of it.

It shows
the genius of Jiří Menzel

that after 20 years, 21 years

when the film was screened
at the main Berlinale competition

nobody wanted to believe
how old the film was

because it was wonderfully filmed
using absolutely modern cinema language.

And were it not for Václav Neckář,
the main protagonist

who turned up looking very different
from 20 years before

they might not have
been believed at all it

wasn't a new film,
but a 20-year old film.

The stroke came when
I was on stage in 2002

eight years ago...

For half a year, I wasn't at all
able to say a full sentence.

But now I'm already trying.

I speak like a book now, but
like a badly written one...

August 21st, 1968.

At night, 500,000 soldiers
from the Warsaw Pact army

crossed the border into Czechoslovakia.

This was the beginning
of the Occupation of the country.

This is Radio Prague, Czechoslovakia.

The legitimate voice of
occupied Czechoslovakia.

We were under Austrian rule,
then we were attacked by Germany

and we were even attacked
by our Russian brothers.

They already arrived here in 1945,
but we welcomed them as liberators

until we grew to understand
they were the next military occupation.

It showed most clearly when our country
wanted real independence

and the Russians
returned to Czechoslovakia

with tanks and an army of half a million

Long live Mr. Dubček!

When the Warsaw pact
troops invaded the country

with tanks, we were in
the middle of shooting.

And they invaded my WWII set
and period props.

They thought some counter-revolutionaries
put mines on the bridges...

to prevent them from advancing.

We had to hide old weapons, no longer
functional, from the Second World War

because otherwise they would shoot at us.

On the morning of the 21st of August,
we went out to film our last scenes.

The filmmakers whom you see here
were not the only ones to be shocked.

Soviet tanks were thundering
through the streets.

I had a handycam, a 35 mm Arriflex.

So I was shooting and people were
even lifting me up as if we were a crane.

So I was able to shoot everything that
was happening above and beneath us.

And this one situation happened.

There was this one tank and then
another and people brought this one car

and one tram and put it
in front of the tanks.

And that's where one of the
beautiful characteristics

of the Czech nation manifested itself.

The tank tried to come through
and was hitting the tram

and people were shouting, "Šájbu!"


Šajba is a thing in ice-hockey

which is a Czech-Soviet-Russian
constant problem

where they shoot šajba,
which means a goal.

We are the generation

that first welcomed
the Russian army in 1945.

I was 9 years old.
I climbed on the tank, hugged them

feeling the pure joy of liberation.

And now the same tanks
came to suffocate us.

And I spoke Russian, so as
a radio reporter

I went to the trucks
with my microphone

asking, "Why have you come?"

But I found just sleepy
and very confused soldiers

who didn't know
where they were or why.

It was a real tragedy for me
as well as for many other people.

This was a tragedy

because it occurred against
all the expectations we had.

We expected liberal reforms.

We were waiting for liberty
but we got totalitarianism.

Those tanks entered Prague

but we had the feeling
they'd occupied our hearts and souls

and I was amongst the opponents
of this occupation.

Because we felt an affinity to their work

we felt...

had a sense of their pain, and had
a sense of what they were experiencing.

But, like,
two-three days after Occupation

Russian small troops,
like five or six soldiers with some

I don't know, person in charge of them

went around, institution by institution.

As FAMU is between Academy of Science,
National Theatre

and all those huge important institutions

they entered FAMU too.

And they said,
"Okay, move! We are now..."

And Brousil was there, he came on the
first floor, and they were entering down

and said, "Stop! Don't move!
What do you want?"

"This is a school where we are teaching
Russian history, Russian films."

"Do you know who is Eisenstein?"

He asked some stupid soldiers.

The guys were so impressed
that - they hear

someone talking about the
Russian in Russian -

they say, "Okay, fine!"
and they exit.

So, legend is that FAMU was one of
very few, maybe the only institution

which was never completely
controlled physically by Russians.

If you were king

and could give me

just as a present

your country

or state...

If you buy me a castle

and a shield of gold

and a collection of all the stamps


wouldn't want it.

All I want is to live!

As one should


and nothing more

that's just my crazy


And I mean

I envy the rivers,
I see them flow

I envy the loaves,
I smell them bake

I envy the fires
their fragrant smoke

I envy the roses
and don't walk

I envy the bees

their honey paradise

I envy April

for bringing May

I envy the blue cloud its freedom

When it was said that street signs
must be removed so as to

make it impossible for
the Soviet army to find its way

within ten minutes,
all ladders to be found in Prague

were put against the walls

and people were removing
street names and signs.

The Russians had no idea
where the streets were leading to.

I told myself, "This nation
can't be broken. It sticks together."

I was very cruelly mistaken.

My wife, who was a beautiful girl

and her friend

Jana Slánská -

maybe you know her from Czech films,
she uses a pseudonym

she works as Kristina Vlachová.

The girls distributed
and pasted the posters.

They got the idea
to wear super mini skirts

to make the Russians desperate.

There was a humorous side to it

which doesn't mean
we didn't know we were screwed

that it was all over.

I'm coming from the country where
everything is very tragic.

Everything ends up with
the blood every 50 years.

So when Czechs were
occupied by Russians

in my country, in
Yugoslavia at that time

no one understood why they are
not fighting against them.

And when you live in Prague
at the time

it was quite clear why they are not...
they are never fighting.

They try to survive.

That's why Charles Bridge is there
for 700 years.

In my country, everything is ruined
every 50 years.

I arrived at a bridge over the Vltava

and there were soldiers stopping
and checking all the cars there.

And I said to myself, "No. I can only
be checked by a Czech policeman."

I drove on along Dlouhá Street
to Náměstí Republiky

where there were soldiers

who'd already heard
the soldiers on the bridge

shooting at my car
as I was driving past them.

They started running at me
in a spread line

and I couldn't drive past them,
because I'd have to drive over them.

So I stopped and they surrounded me.

They wanted to pull me out of the car
but I locked myself inside.

I was terribly angry.

But fortunately, as I was surrounded
by the Russians, the strange faces

there were Czech citizens
right behind them

shouting at me, "Don't give in, Jirka!"

They were shouting at me
not to let the soldiers arrest me.

Then a Russian army officer showed up

and he was smart. He was way more
educated than the Russians around him.

He asked me very politely
to stop acting foolishly

and to get out of the car,
that no harm would come to me.

Everything suddenly collapsed.


Jakubisko, Havetta and Hanák
had new films out

which were banned
right after the Occupation.

The censors withdrew these films
from movie theatres

and they shelved them.
They weren't screened anymore.

So the situation was...
absolutely depressing and hopeless.

In case of Jakubisko one can say why

the films were extremely inventive
and free flowing.

They showed the influence of Godard.

They were critical indirectly or
very directly with the Russians

for instance
The Deserter And The Nomads (1968)

which was filmed with three parts,
the first part on the First World War

second on the Second World War
and the third after the nuclear holocaust.

The Occupation took away from me
the most free period of my creative life.

I was young.

Wherever I looked,
I saw a theme for a film.

I needed to make films.

I wanted to make a feature film
every two years.

My notes would've given me
enough material

I knew what films I wanted to make.

I had to say goodbye to that.

So much time has gone by since
I last shot anything.

Well, who was Jan Palach...

He was a child of that era.

As I am continuously saying,
it was a transformation

from Nazism and Communism

the change that was forming somewhere

and out of it the Prague Spring was born.

He was one of the children
of the Prague Spring who believed

that it was bringing a certain
freedom to the filmmakers

as well as to everyone else.

I don't like to walk in the crowd
when I'm feeling sad

because I'm afraid I'll meet

who doesn't feel sad...

or is just pretending.

As for cheerfulness, that is something
I haven't felt for a long time...

a couple of years, I think.

From the euphoria that the
Prague Spring brought with itself

the shock was so immense that the
adults behaved in a way that they were

coming back to their former ways, they
started to collaborate within themselves.

He was one of the few who wanted to
point it out. He wanted to cry for help

that it couldn't go on like that,
that we had to do something.

You can only hear people
scuffing their feet as they were walking.

But other than that... silence.
The entire nation knelt down

in front of this individual

who took the weight
of the era on his own shoulders.

Well, hello there! I see somebody walking.
Where are you coming from?

From the forest.

- Did you go mushrooming?
- Well, we kind of lost our way.

Come in. Come in.

I was ready to make my dream
film. But suddenly the Russians came

and everything fell apart.

All My Good Countrymen
was banned

because it was against the crimes
of the Communist Party

which were similar to those of the Nazis.

Not that much,
but Stalin killed even more people.

In a way, the films made in 1969

were the most political ones
of the whole New Wave period.

That's why some 8 to 9 films
made in Bohemia and Slovakia were banned.

My film 322was to be burnt.

This was related to five movies:
Sirovy's Funeral Ceremonies

Menzel's Larks on a String

The Seventh Day, the Eighth Night

Kachyna's The Ear,
and Squandered Sunday.

Those five movies.

I don't know if they told anybody
any reason, but they never told me.

I wrote a sort of an appeal

that was published
in the most read newspaper back then.

In the appeal I was referring to Gandhi

that we should adopt
his views to the Occupation.

And to not co-operate.

It was published
and it had a strong reaction.

But it became the reason why

I then had to explain myself.

And not only me.

To tell you the truth, we were
being watched the entire time.

They asked everybody
especially the question

whether we agreed with the international
"assistance" from our allied armies.

I was...

I wasn't able to say I agreed.

I said I couldn't come to terms with it...

that it was
so deeply traumatising for me

that I hadn't come to terms with it.

With that answer, I risked my existence.

But I couldn't say I agreed.

Everybody who remained
in the Party had to say they did.

I think it must have been
extremely humiliating for them.

They had to say so
even though they didn't think so.

Everybody was just fighting
for their living,

for a little red book which, in fact,
served as a working permit.

It was the Party membership ID
and it was much harder without it.

But, of course,
Menzel is a great filmmaker

and he's made excellent films.

And if somebody says, "OK, but he never
said anything about the occupation"

that remark is completely irrelevant.

Because people who said something

about it couldn't work anymore.

Somebody... I know...
Menzel once said that he agreed

with the statement that Russians
aren't occupants, that it was a brotherly help

I don't know the exact formulation.
I think that he came on television

and he started to repent and
he started to relativize the Occupation.

Menzel said he did that

because he wanted
to make movies.

Everyone has to answer
this question on his own.

I said to myself, "I can't
proclaim that it was otherwise

or that I agree with it just to be able
to make movies."

Plus what kind of films
would be made

under the new head dramaturges
at Barrandov?

They were awful.
I can remember two, maybe three movies

from the 20-year period
of Normalisation.

Who would remember those films?

They were terrible!

Regardless of a group of directors
who were absolutely incompetent.

Balik, Kachlik, Jaromir, Borek,
they were the new favourites.

I didn't want to make movies
with people like that, no way.

But Jirka wanted to make movies,
and so he put up with it.

And I don't judge him, because
everyone's responsible for himself.

That's everyone's personal matter

how they handled themselves.

I don't want to judge them

but the truth is, I've never done that.

Because I would feel like I had
lost my identity had I done it.

That's all I have to say about that.

But we all had to say it and if someone
didn't, they were punished.

Jakubisko couldn't
shoot feature films anymore.

He was transferred to documentary films.

The same happened to Peter Solan.

They wanted to transfer me
to documentary films as well

but I was defending myself

because deep inside I am
not a documentary filmmaker.

There were people telling me

"Careful! Careful! We're going to
scrutinise your film with a microscope

to make sure
there's nothing anti-socialist."

I didn't want to make
anti-socialist films.

But the three feature films I made that
got banned were considered anti-socialist.

They also banned three
of my short documentaries.

My parents were in the fields
when I was about to be born.

My dad ran for help.

I fell out onto a spread apron

Thus I was born.

What is it?

I know nothing.

It took at least five years before
Hanák could make another film.

For Jakubisko,
it was perhaps 10-15 years.

And it killed Havetta.

Havetta could never
come to terms with it.

And it's believed that...

he intentionally didn't go see a doctor

when he had problems with his stomach

and he quietly died at home
instead of looking for help.

That was how depressed he was about it
and how unable to cope with it he was.


Havetta died of Normalisation.

One important figure was
Jan Procházka, who was a writer

who was a member of the
communist party and

so he had close links
with the President.

He wrote his own scripts,
some of them highly critical

like, for instance,
Long Live the Republic

which came out in the mid-60s

and The Ear, which came out in... well it
came out in 1990, because it was banned

but that was really one
which was one of

the most hard hitting films about
the communist system.

But he made it possible for some of
the New Wave directors to work.

He defended, for instance,
Němec's The Party and the Guests.

If you allow me, I'd like to remind you
that I haven't committed any offence.

Neither have I.

Neither have I.

And I haven't either.

If it isn't too much trouble,
could I ask you for an explanation?

What have we done?

Don't you know?

He doesn't know.

Did you hear that?

And at one moment, in 1970, I think...

His profile was broadcasted in television

created from materials made by
the secret service.

You probably know the story.
It was the worst case of film media abuse.

I think he died of cancer, but there
was another reason for his death

the internal fight of Normalisation.

He died exhausted...

Because on his shoulders he had to bear

the entire weight of the defiance.

He had to shoot films
that he didn't like shooting.

And that is, of course, going
to affect every sensitive artist.

Because then he feels like a servant

and not like a creator.

That was an inner problem of Štefan Uher

and that's what cut his life short.

He was just simply
exhausted from everything.

Therefore, they no longer wanted to
be rebels. They were exhausted.

They said to themselves,
"No, let's just bow down

just so we can do something."

Everything was considered
to be hostile - sex...

love, despair were hostile to them.

But those are the basics of a human story.

In that sense, we were anti-regime.

They said I have caused enough troubles
because End of August at Hotel Ozone

was banned no matter what
the political climate was.

The same with Josef Kilián.

So if I wanted to work at all, they
suggested that I make films for children.

So I got a chance after five years,
and not even in Barrandov

but with Krátký Film, to make a fairytale.

So I filmed two fairytales,
and the irony was

that I've become
a specialist in fairytales

which was fairly rare,
because there were

not many of us.
So I continued with that

and suddenly people forgot
that I made regular films.

I was labelled someone who
makes films for children.

I wasn't the only one
who was fired from Barrandov.

It was Standa Milota, Ladislav Helge,
Antonín Máša, Pavel Juráček...

They said, "Juráček? No! Never!"

"He is done, fire him and end him."

I admit this might look
suspicious to you.

It would to me, but I...

I really don't know
how it happened.

It just occurred to me
that I might borrow a cat.

That's all.

I'll gladly tell you why I did it,
but I'd have to lie.

I had no reason.
It never dawned on me that I needed one.

I know it was my mistake.
One should have a reason.

Next time
I'd like to set things right.

You see, whatever happened,
I'm just an ordinary person.

Evald Schorm - one of the major
directors made no films until '89.

And so on...

As is quite apart from the ones
who went abroad

who were not merely Němec, Forman,
Passer, Kadár, Barabáš, Jasný...

you know, more, even more,
plenty more you can name

who just went abroad, and some of them
were able to pursue their careers

some of them weren't.

I had to leave because

otherwise they would kill me.

That's it.

That's why I emigrated to President Tito
who provided the best protection.

If it weren't for President Tito, I'd be dead.
The KGB would've murdered me.

The ambassador Trpe Jakovlevski was
helping certain intellectuals, directors

and dramaturges to cross borders
to Yugoslavia in order to

emigrate to America, Canada, Germany,
and other countries.

Approximately 80 intellectuals
left Czechoslovakia via Yugoslavia.

But those who stayed, of course

suddenly found themselves
on the horns of a dilemma

because they were not allowed to shoot

and at the same time
did not want to claim allegiance

to the current that came thereafter
approximately from the year 1970

actually already in the
end of the year 1969

the period of "Normalisation"
as we call it.

It was a period when the rule over politics

but also over culture was
captured by totally different people

those who did not share the ideals
of the young people

who were considered to be
a part of the New Wave.

Well, I worked at an incineration plant
operating the incinerators

I drove a van for the grocery company,
so I was a professional driver.

Then I worked as a book salesman.

It's ridiculous.

But you have to live with it.

You've made your choice,
so you have to enjoy what you have.

At the Muzeum metro station,
I worked as a cleaner.

That was great.

I remember that

Andrej Barla, my friend and
Jakubisko's original cinematographer

- he was shooting with Vávra,
the big films of his -

he was in the metro,
saw me on the stairs and said

"What are you doing here?"
I said, "Cleaning the stairs."

It was quite obvious.

I was married to a famous
pop singer Marta Kubišová

and she was not allowed to sing

as she was part of the protest
movement against invasion.

We lost the child before
the child was born.

That means it was only very bad thing and
then I was really very close to suicide.

That means it doesn't look that there is
any light at the end of the tunnel.

When I recall this period, it seems
to me almost impossible.

As if you were walking
in winter, freezing

almost exhausted,
lying in the snow

and somebody would find you
and take you home

and from a fireplace it is pleasant
to think about it.

Like this, it is so pleasant
to think about it

that it all seems to
you like a dream

you wonder about it all,
you imagine and sigh.

We were so traumatised
that I feel the trauma even today.

I really liked
Russian literature and other things

but I still feel a certain aloofness
towards Russia

and Russian language.

It's still inside me.
The tanks in our streets and...

I will never...

I will never get rid
of the image in my mind's eye.

It was the 9th of January

I got a phone call from somebody that
the Russian tanks are leaving the barracks

in a small town near Prague

and they are coming towards Prague.

And so I took my car and

went to take a look at it,
and sure enough

I saw them coming.
So I turned back

went home, called Miloš,
told him what I saw

and Miloš said, "Ok, pick me up
in an hour, and we'll leave!"

So, I packed up my little
luggage, and we went to...

Miloš chose a small border crossing
between Czechoslovakia and Austria.

We go there at 4 o'clock in the morning

there were patches of snow
around, nobody there.

So we stopped, and the
officer came out

with a Kalashnikov over his shoulder, and
he said, "Comrades, where are you going?"

And we said, "We are going
to Vienna for a weekend."

And he said, "Can I see your passports?"

So I was sitting on the
right side, Miloš was driving

I gave him our passports and he said

he was going through it, he said,
"Where is your exit visa?"

which was a yellow piece of paper which

you had to have in order
to leave the country.

And they never gave it to anybody, yeah

except some prominent Party people.

So I said, "They are not there.

They must be in the luggage
in the back of the car."

And I got out of the car pretending
that I know that we have it

and I opened the back side and
I'm going through the luggage

and I hear this kind of a dialogue...

The officer said, "Are you
Miloš Forman, the film director?"

And Miloš, who has a very
deep voice, says, "Yes."

He said, "You know, I have
seen all your movies."

And Miloš said - I didn't
believe what I heard -

Miloš said, "And I bet you didn't like
any of them."

I thought... Is he crazy or what?

And the officer said,
"Are you kidding?

Do you remember that scene from
Loves of a Blonde...

that ring rolling on the floor and..."

And he began to talk about different
scenes from Miloš's movies.

Then he leaned like that and he said...

looked at me, he said,
"Don't look for those exit visa!"

And he let us go...

and he used an expression in Czech

which you use only when you never
see the people again...

"Be with God!"

So within five days, two French guys
picked me up in a roadster

and took me and the two kids,
poor things, in the backseat to Paris.

So we were there.

They got us a flat in Paris and all.

But Miloš didn't have any money for us
as he hadn't finished the movie yet.

And I never quite understood it

I think, he didn't want to
make the movie with them

with Claude Berri, the film producer.

Maybe he disliked the script,
I don't know.

So he left us in Paris
and went to America, to New York.

We had no idea that
it's going to last that long.

It was so bizarre, it was so... you know

"An Invasion of Czechoslovakia",
I mean it's...

you know, it would be a great comedy,
if I ever had a chance to do it.

We thought we are leaving just for a year.

We had... I had 300 dollars, Miloš had
600 dollars, one small piece of luggage...

Altogether I went three times to New York,
always with a ten-year break.

So I went there
and he was living quite well.

And he would later send us some money,
but never very much, as the dollar was high

and he thought,
"That should do for them."

So we got by. I mean,
not that we scraped along.

I played in the theatre, I went for tours,
I would knit clothes for my friends.

So we somehow managed to get by
and Miloš was abroad all that time.

So we stayed in touch

we would call each other, every Christmas,
then less and less.

Then not even on Christmas.
Then we met once, in Paris.

Then we didn't see each other anymore.

I told him once
how sorry I was that his films

Loves of a Blonde, The Firemen's Ball,
a wonderful film...

I told him I was sorry these got lost
because of his later films

like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

He told me, "If I wanted to gain
something new, I had to sacrifice something."

So I came to understand him.

And I was so happy for him
and his great success

which made the regime here
so terribly upset

that a man of Forman's quality
had to flee the country

in order to be able to create.

Not every Czech can run away.

So I ruined my Hollywood career.


I don't think I would
make such good films in America...

as I did here.

I was replaceable...

making American movies.

But nobody could make
Intimate Lighting.

I guess you'd prefer a leg.

I want a leg!

No talking during the meal!

Kaya, grandpa also didn't get a leg and
doesn't complain!

Do you grandpa?

Please stay! He doesn't have
to have everything he sees.

But he likes it.
Here, have the leg, and...

Kaja, what are you doing?
Put it back immediately.

Let him have both of them,
I'll share with Peter, right?

Of course!

No, you can't do that!
You won't have enough. Take mine!

Leave that, leave it!

Here, take mine!

No, then you won't have any.
We'll share ours.

Why do you want to split a leg?

We'll manage

I cannot really take credit for it

because I saw it
in my brother-in-law's family.

In his family, if they had, like

six people for dinner,
they only had food for five.

I mean, always!

And so, I saw exactly that scene.

They had a chicken, and they...
suddenly one portion was missing.

So there was this game.

You know, of course,
in a film we made it more funny.

When it was finished,
there was a screening for the group

and Mr Šebor, the group's chief
and a great fan of Forman

and the rest of us,
said after the screening

"Guys, this is the most boring film
of all times."

That was my first review.

So I thought, "Ah! Okay."

And then, it was just before the
Karlovy Vary Film Festival

and somehow the studio didn't have
enough new Czech films to show

because it's a 'A' type festival in Europe

so there are lots of critics and important
people from all over the world, really.

So they showed Intimate Lighting.

It became such a success that
they had to show it several times over.

I said to myself, that I would
never make anything better.

That's pure film. Beautiful!

We'll be standing here like this
until judgement day

After five years of trying
to get some smaller jobs

in television or the dubbing industry

where I ended up working
for about six months

when I was...
how should I put it...

let into...

when I was mercifully allowed
to make a film

- as a test, as it was called -
which all of us had to do

it was something
I wouldn't wish for anybody

because not only was there
a five-year break

we actually had to sign
that the film was just a test.

And if we didn't pass the test,
they would kick us out.

This is what happened. At Barrandov,
they did not want me to work.

In the same way, they did not want
Jan Němec to work

as well as our whole generation.
It's the same old story.

Our colleagues, Sekvenc, Vorlíček, etc.,
wanted us, who were more successful...

to disappear.

That is the Czech character.

And they were successful,
because they had

the support of the
management of Barrandov.

They could not fire me

because at that time,
the law did not allow that.

They did not have any reason.

They could not fire Jireš, Bočan,
Mrs. Chytilová either.

Nevertheless, when we
wanted to do something

they would tell us that
it does not suit them

and they offered us scripts
that were un-filmable.

To put it bluntly
and to be completely vulgar

it provided opportunities for
pillocks, half-wits...

all of a sudden they
had this enormous power.

All the capable people
were suddenly cut off.

It was a horrible regime!

And there were enough communists
in this country

who joined this regime.

Or who would pretend
nothing had ever happened

such as Menzel when he made
Who Looks for Gold?

I would pee myself.

And that's horrible.


Everything, especially in the arts
and especially in filmmaking

is the result of a compromise.

If you're an engineer,
you have to make a compromise

with the laws of physics.

You have to adapt to them,
you have to accept them.

If you're an architect, a joiner,
anything, a shoemaker or a waiter

you have to accept the restaurant
you work at, carry the food they make

you simply have to do that.

The point is to do it the best
you can under the given conditions.

The same goes for filmmaking.

You can't stop making movies
just because the communists want it.

I called Evald, who was
sort of our counsellor

as he was the eldest one of us

and the wisest one as well, I think

and I asked him, "Do you think
I should quit the job, Evald?"

And Evald said, "It's they
who have to fire you."

"Don't quit. Wait for them to fire you."

"If you quit, what are you going to do?
Sweep the streets?"

"And how are you going to sweep them?"

"You'll do it well, because you do
things well

and you'll support the regime
with your work anyway."

"So, don't do anything and just wait."

During totalitarianism I chose a tactic...

I made certain
they knew I was prepared

for them to drown me...
But I'd take them down with me.

I made sure I could
take them down with me.

I would have made such a scandal

it would've
cost them their positions.

She said, "They all have wives at home."

"And they're all terrified of them,
particularly when they become hysterical."

"So I decided to play the
hysterical wife, basically."

And so she threw fits and she behaved
in whatever way was necessary to

try and persuade them to let
her do what she wanted to do.

Among the scripts I'd been offered,
there was this one...

I met the writers,
they were two journalists

and the script was about the construction
of an oil pipeline.

I met the authors and I asked them

if they would go to see a film
based on that script...

if they would buy the tickets.

They said that they would not!

I liked their honesty,
so I told them

"Alright, I will do it.
I really have to do something."

We went to see the construction

but it was just a hole in the ground.

A digger here and there, but otherwise
nothing that could be filmed.

So I again said that it was not filmable

and they advised me to
go and look at a dam

which was being built -
and it was interesting.

It was a beautiful space and the people
who were there were really nice.

The employees were mostly people
who were thrown out from better posts.

"If you shoot this
film, we might allow you

to shoot something
better as well."

At that very moment,
he invited me to

a pub, he told me about it and said

"Zdeněk, I wouldn't shoot this normally

but help me improve the
dialogues at least."

In order to build this dyke

they first had to blow a tunnel
through that rock face there.

The river runs through there now.

The four pipes you see over there
will go under the dyke.

Each is six metres in diameter.

The water will power the turbine.

And at night, when there is
less need for electricity

the turbines will pump
water back into the dam.

After the Revolution, many people
didn't have a clear conscience

but they were very eager to
point fingers, saying

"Aha! Menzel made pro-regime films."

If you watch the film, you will see
that it is not good

but it is not pro-regime,
not in any way.

The story can be whatever.

What's important is
the creator's approach.

That's what's interesting
and unique.

It's original
because we're all different.

We perceive things differently.

That's what interests me,
the relationship to it.

Naturally, Věra Chytilová
decides to do it her own way.

So instead of celebrating the construction
of the housing estate

which was the pride and
joy of the socialist regime

she made a film unmasking the regime.

Jireš made a film about the
building of the Prague Metro.

other people made equally vacuous
and empty films at the same time.

It was, as if,
the authorities were saying

"You know, here's the theme.
Make a film about that!"

"We're not interested
in the quality.

We just want to fulfil
the production program."

So we had to make films
so that certain ideas were hidden

so that we did not say directly
what we wanted to say

to let people feel it,
put it in between lines, so to say.

And that was very interesting
because we put... we put there...

we call it a white dog,
or a white animal.

We wanted to hide there something
they would not be able to see.

They started to notice it
and also started to interpret symbols.

So then the worst was happening,
fortunately not too often

they started to see symbols even
in places where we intended none at all.

For example, after the Warsaw Pact troops
entered our country on 21st

we could not use 21st in a calendar or so,
this number could not be used.

If we used it,
they would argue.

Or the clocks could never show
midnight because

it was at midnight
when the troops entered.

So they were searching for symbols
everywhere in a film.

I remember that when I made one film...
due to the censorship... one film...

it was not... it was not
Build a House, Plant a Tree

it was before, before,
I'm Sitting on a Branch and I'm Fine.

In this film, I consciously
made a scene where a man

is kicking Russian flags
and throwing them around

so that a censor could look and say

"Yes, this is it. This is the white dog.

This must be cut out,
otherwise it is all right".

By the way, I heard this idea once

I also talked
to Jaromil Jireš about it

that there's no doubt the New Wave
was severed by outside forces.

But inside, with the possible exception
of Mr. Forman

they were already abandoning

that exploratory documentary
style of narration anyway

as if they had somewhat
drained it already.

Let me point out,
I can't speak on their behalf

but this was a feeling I had...

that the excitement that you could have
to see living people on the silver screen

as opposed to the films
that were shot before

and that the people on the screen could
communicate with the same language

as the people sitting in the audience

that suddenly, everybody
started abandoning that

because they wanted to express
something more

in the sense of expressing
more fatal, existential moments.

That was why, I think, Jaromil Jireš shot

for example...
Valerie and Her Week of Wonders.

Věra Chytilová shot Fruit of Paradise.

Almost all of them shifted

as if they wanted to start
expressing themselves differently.

Where is the Paris poorhouse,
dear child?

Over there, Father.

One thing, what I think, what we
were trying to do is in a way has

diverged a little from what the Czech
directors did, was that there...

there seemed to be increasingly
an element of surrealism and...

a kind of surrealist humour
in their later work.

And I guess we've stuck
fairly closely, I guess

to trying to tell stories
of how things are.

And that's because in film
culture here, it is about...

the film culture is
about exaggeration

it's about escape, it's about pretending
that everything is fine, that...

it's about promoting wealth

it's about saying the United States is

the defender of freedom
and democracy and...

their soldiers do nothing but
help the human race to progress.

And I suppose,
our response to that is to say

"No, no. Look at how it is!
Look at how it is!"

and trying to make films that have said,
"Look! This is how it really is."

And the political and
social circumstance

I guess, in Czechoslovakia
or Czech Republic

has been to... they have to
work through images and metaphors

because they couldn't say,
"This is how it is"

because that would have been
deemed unacceptable.

One day Mr. Toman

gentleman who made all the decisions
regarding what gets made at Barrandov

offered me a story
which I turned down.

He summoned me to his office and said

"Are you sure
you don't want to shoot it?"

I started making excuses that I didn't
understand this subject, etc.

And he told me in this voice
I still remember today

"But it would be a pity
to have you on hold for a long time."

It meant, "Turn it down
and you're done."

I don't know.

It is true that...

thanks to Toman
the New Wave disappeared

because all of them stopped working.

Had I not shot it

I wouldn't have shot
My sweet Little Village

I wouldn't have shot Cutting It Short.

Nevertheless, there are some zealots here
who cannot forgive me for this.

Do you have enough material?

It's Larks on a String here -
Jiří Menzel film...

This is Věra Chytilová...
Something Different

an amazing combination of
documentary and fiction.

You can see Evald Schorm, Jan Němec.

Seclusion near a Forest
is one of...

the most popular films amongst Czechs.

Everyone knows all the catchphrases

that people hear from the film
and are used in everyday speech.

Somewhere else the frogs croak
in an unpleasant way.

But here they do just, "Hu... Hu..."

What do you do about the mice?

It was after the long break,
I felt insecure.

I was afraid that I would spoil
Zdeněk's and Ladislav's work

so I was very tense.

The Bolsheviks shut the borders and
people were not allowed to go abroad

that is why they started
fleeing to the country.

There was a big boom at that time.

People started buying village
houses, or building them

to be able to escape the city
at least during the weekend

and live their own lives.

We want to talk about the cottage.

Yes, you should buy it.

- Yes! It's all the same to you
- Exactly!

That's what we wanted to talk about.

I'd keep my little room,
and the rest would be yours.

I'd keep an eye on the place for you.
You would have milk...

You mean, live on here with us?

Yes. When I die,
it'll be all yours.

You know, we'll have to think about that.

We hadn't thought about that solution.

We get on so well though, no?

It was nicely dingy, and one could feel
the smell of the village house.

I had wonderful kids there
who came for casting on their own.

It's nice to meet them today.

Mafia is a midwife

and her brother, the small one,
is an IT guy. He works with computers.

It is terrible how time flies...

When he moved here...
in 1965 or 1966...

he was getting to know his neighbours

and wrote some short stories about them.

It's simply an illustration of how people
live here, the Czech nature, and so on.

It is about Czech hedonists,
about their drinking and eating.

I will not tell you a funny story
from the shoot...

They do not exist.

They exist only for people
who took part in the shoot.

It's usually not funny for people
who were not there.

So, I don't have
a funny story, unfortunately.

The crew that is here with me
wants to take some shots with me

because they like Hrabal.

They're from India.
It's an Indian crew.

Somewhere here there was a cesspit
because there was no toilet...

Mr. Hrabal refused to act in the film.

In the end, I persuaded him
to appear in one shot.

He agreed, he took a ladle and started
spilling the shit on the flowerbeds.

He would come, feed the cats and
then sit inside near the tile stove.

I'd come and knock on the window.

I'd hear, "What is it?
Why are you bothering me? Who is it?"

So, I'd always enter very cautiously
and he would say, "Oh, it's you!"

And then he would calm down.

He was ill and that is why he was nervous.

It was a sad ending.
But otherwise I liked coming here.

We were fond of each other.

Oh - and there were cats everywhere.

As with all the Hrabal film adaptations

you have to mix the material
and put it together in a new way.

Because the content of his prose
isn't the actual plot.

It's the way the individual
situations are told.

And it was always about...

It was true for Tra in s

Cutting it Short and
all the other Hrabal adaptations

that it had to somehow connect together.

I swapped this camera for
two sacks of grouts.

It was an innocent film
about the countryside

or how people lived there

but it scared the watchdogs,
the communists, etc.

I had to promise that
it wouldn't be against the regime.

And I received training.

I was invited to the police, who explained

that in the film the policeman
must not be an antagonist.

I told them, "He's portrayed by Mr. Somr."

"He's a very congenial person.
It will be... It will be okay."

But they were still afraid.
They were scared by Larks

that I'd be protesting
against something again.

Eventually, the film was green-lighted.

But later, when we were shooting
Mr. Somr in a police uniform

he got so drunk during the shoot

that when he was supposed to rebuke
a drunk, in a close-up shot

you could tell that he was himself drunk!

That was a problem. I thought

they will never let me
shoot a foot of film again!

So, we had to reshoot the scene later.

The Snowdrop Festival
comes very close to

Closely Watched Trains

when that main - Herr Zedníček,
who's a negative character

says Czechs are "laughing beasts"

think this is captured perfectly
in The Snowdrop Festival.

Do you know what Czechs are?

Laughing beasts.

The soup, gentlemen!

Menzel found, exactly
in Hrabal's drafts, which he then filmed

in particular with
The Snowdrop Festival

something like the core
of Hrabal's statement

which is precisely the Czechs' enjoyment
of good food and...

good beer, and such things.

The same thing happens in
Cutting it Short

where a brewery is actually...
the main setting.

But it's also a great flattening of
Hrabal's text or draft

because Hrabal obviously
didn't write about this

- the way the Czechs
like to eat and drink well -

instead, he wrote about
the mentality of the Czech nation.

I fell asleep with the rosy image

of two steaks for breakfast.


It will be long, long, long film.


Every woman has a tendency to evil.

Good morning!

What were we talking about?


Woman is the only good

we have in this world.

My mum used to tell me that

if a girl is nice

I shouldn't start anything with her.

And if she's bad, I definitely should.

So I had real bad feelings.

And it took a while
before I understood that

there is nothing bad about liking girls.

So then I tried to catch up.

I had a lot of...
"friendships", as I would call it.

You couldn't say that they were

love affairs or...

I kept my distance.

Because I knew if I was with just one girl,
I wouldn't get to have the others.

That would make me sad, so...

I knew that it was all...

on the basis of...

that we should like each other but only...

so much that we could go to bed together.

But... nothing more.

Jiří Menzel claimed that one of the ways
that helped him survive Normalisation

was climbing into bed with one woman,
then another woman, and that

helped him a bit
to survive Normalisation.

His penchant for presenting eroticism

in a semi-theatrical manner

and even his protagonists

are Don Juans, womanisers.

Menzel is always interested
in semi-nudity.

There is always
an element of voyeurism

and it is always present with him,
whatever the theme or story.

Well... You know

you can't make a nice movie
without girls.

But they have to be pretty girls.

It may be my weakness, but...
I know no other way.

I have to like the girls.

Sometimes, one of them ends up here.

Eliška, there's a cobweb
up there

on the very top

on that clock...


Got this.

Lovely questions.

Finally, quiet place!

So... what do you think?

As we have Democracy and
the Rule of Law behind us.

One day we met on the street
and he asked me how I was

and we went for a coffee together
and we laughed all the time.

We had lots of fun and
I ate about two pastries

and in the end
when we were parting, he said

"Magda, I have a script...
Would you take a look at it?"

And I said to the producer that
I found the actress, Mrs. Vašáryová.

And the producer told me
I was crazy - she acted daily

in the theatre in Bratislava,
really far away.

She worked for TV as well, and
she wasn't ideal for the production.

I called Magda in Bratislava

and when she heard my voice
she asked, "Jirka, you saw my message?"

It was just a postcard and I wrote on it

"I like the book a lot.
I've emptied the fridge. Yours, Magda."

And I realised, for God's sake,
that this was it.

This is a woman who knows how to live,
in every sense of the word.

I met Mrs. Hrabalová,
the mother of Mr. Hrabal

when she was still alive.
She was a real lady.

Mr. Hrabal writes
she was queen of the town...

she was beautiful,
she was admired.

He was conceived while his mother
was unmarried, and his real father...

the war came and he had to go fight.
So they did not marry.

And then she had a baby
and she started to work in a brewery...

in Nymburk, I guess. And the administrator
of the brewery asked to marry her.

He incorporated all this in his novel
Cutting it Short

which Jiří Menzel adapted
in an ingenious way

making it perhaps one
of the most wonderful films of

I would say, popular culture.

And later, we filmed
somewhere in Moravia

and some man came to him and said

that Hrabal's real father was nearby
and wanted to meet him.

And Mr. Hrabal told him that
his father was the one who'd raised him

and that he didn't want to see his father.

That's the other thing
I keep in myself...

Fatherhood isn't... isn't in the sperm.
Fatherhood is in the raising and

how much the father
is concerned about the baby.

When we were climbing the chimney,
he turned back

covered his eyes with his hands and asked
all the time, "Am I down yet? Am I down?"

He was scared... But I'm never scared.

Jirka Menzel, because he is a bit of
an artiste, I mean a circus performer

started climbing the chimney first.
He showed us, "Look, it's nothing".

And right after him,
Magda started climbing.

With the director and
lead actress climbing

I had no option but to climb as well.

We built the top of the chimney on
the roof of another building

and it was just one and half metres.

That is where the scene with the flowing
hair was shot, with the help of a fan.

The actors obviously
do not climb the 20 metres

only the first two, three steps...

I still remember the revelation that
Cutting it Short was for me in the 80s

with Magda Vašáryová.

He made her an icon, a beautiful
goddess with that long hair

drinking a pint of beer.

He always had a gift for the erotic,
seeing every woman as beautiful

and he's able to present it
in such a way

that the person watching
must fall in love with her

whether she is a laundress
or a countess.

We shot it at night... it was cold...
and used only three little lamps.

I was worried, had a bad feeling,
and when we finished shooting

I told myself that
we'd have to cut the scene

because I didn't like it at all.

Then I saw the dailies,
and I was astonished how

Šofr is able to conjure up
the atmosphere.

He is indeed a magician.

For some reason, that film is magic.

When you saw this film in times
when everything was grey

disgusting, bad morale,
bad relationships

generally terrible taste

and he brings in
this image of the good old times

and some kind of elegance.

It really felt like a memory
of some better... better past

and a glimpse of hope for the future.

When I was cutting it later

I realised the movie was too
sweet, too rosy, too idyllic...

I needed to bring
it down a notch.

So, I made up these stories...

Whenever Junior Ruda sees
Uncle Peppin, he gets hurt.

And it worked very well because
it lightened the romantic bit...

It wasn't scripted.

You must come up with it
because you can see

that the film is heading
in a different direction

into seriousness or into sentimentality.


So you have to
come up with gags to lighten it up.

Shakespeare did nothing different.

Where would Hamlet be without...

those... the gravediggers?

Jiří Menzel, already when
directing in theatre

was capable of building each gag
in such a way

as to have the punchline
at a specific place.

This is very...
that's mathematics.

And he did the same when working on films.

All the...

the fights in Chaplin's films

or the awkward situations
of Laurel and Hardy

it all has a big human drive in it.

It's a sort of a shortcut of

what we experience in life.

And when you can laugh at it

that's... there's a big lesson in it.

That's why I want to make comedies

because those are the things that...

that stay in your head and heart longer

than the serious, pretentious stuff.

The film was screened
at the festival in Venice in 1980.

When Italian feminists saw the movie,
they held a demonstration against me

and even threw eggs at me.
So I had to pay the price...

One critic referred to Cutting it short
as "a flower in a desert of Barrandov".

As though, sort of, suddenly in this
desert of, sort of, meaningless films

there emerges this, sort of, blossom.

And I think that's true. And I think...

it's an effective adaptation of
Hrabal's novel about his

life in the provinces
and living in a brewery

and his uncle used to
tell his unending stories

and the, sort of, idealised picture
of the mother and so on and so forth.

Yeah, I think it is a very good
film, and it's one of...

possibly, even the best film
produced in the next 20 years

you know, during the period of
Normalisation which is 1970 to 1989.

A pig fell in a gutter,
not so wide, not for long.

Ferda rides a bike,
Ferda rides away.

Who'd have thought
the pig would fall?

Ferda rides a bike,
he carries a spade.

Personally, I think the late 60s

were so inspiring to me

I so much appreciated what the New Wave
had the opportunity to speak about

and what it actually did speak about

that I didn't even want to make
any other kind of films.

In other words,
Pictures of the Old World

Rosy Dreams and I Love, You Love
all represent a continuation of the New Wave.

There were also so few brave ones

maybe not even seven brave ones

who moved abroad

and were able to function there,
they were able to work there.

Of course, a director is
in a better situation if he is Czech

and wants to make a living in France
or in the USA.

Still, I think it's an immense change.

Many filmmakers find it absolutely unique

that Miloš Forman could succeed abroad
to the extent he did

because others, such as Mr. Passer
or Mr. Jasný, could get teaching jobs.

When arrived the new medium
home video - VHS

then I was the first to get the idea that
people would need it - home video

at first to like to have it -
not funeral, but wedding.

And I start to do wedding video.

The people who left the country ceased
to exist for the Czechoslovak government.

They couldn't write about them.

It went so far that, for example, when
Martina Navrátilová won the Wimbledon

the newspaper headlines said
"Evert Lost".

Martina's name could not appear
in the newspaper!

The same thing happened
when Miloš got his first Oscar.

It was nowhere in the newspapers.

Miloš finished school when I came there.

He left school when
I was in my first year.

He was my senior by five years.

I found him very annoying.

He was handsome, had this flair,
was always in jeans.

But mainly, he'd speak so loudly

he was impossible to miss.

I felt inferior. And... I envied him.

I found him annoying because he was
so self-confident, so easy-going.

Then he made his first film, Black Peter,
which was screened in the film club.

I thought what kind of a film
can such a dandy make?

It must be some rubbish.

I went there with a friend and
I told her, "Be ready to leave".

The film started and I stopped breathing.

It's such a wonderful film
about how people really are.

In my mind, I apologised to him, and
much later I apologised to him for real.

Thereafter, he shot the most beautiful
Czech film ever, The Firemen's Ball.

It's about the real nature of the Czechs,
the ill-mannered bastards...

And then he fled.

He struggled there...

He made Taking Off, which
wasn't successful in America

but it is a beautiful film.

It took him a long time...
He had a longer break than me

before he could shoot
the Cuckoo's film.

By then, the situation here had improved

and a French actress, Marlène Jobert,
had seen my films

and she got the idea that
I will shoot with her.

She came to Prague and she persuaded
the authorities to let me to go to France.

That was somehow possible at that time.

So I went to France. She waited for me
at the railway station in Paris.

And she said she had a surprise for me.

She took me to a hotel
where Miloš was staying.

Exactly at the same time, he was in Paris
because of the première of Cuckoo's.

In that room, Milan Kundera was
sitting there as well.

We had a nice chat. They asked me
what's new in Bohemia. It was nice.

Miloš bought me a record of the soundtrack
and bought me a ticket for the film.

So that is where I saw
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

I told him that I hadn't liked him,
that I'd found him annoying.

And that after seeing his films,
I couldn't help but like him!

The last time we saw each other
was when I was in the US.

He was very nice.

He does not like to move,
because he has bad knees.

But otherwise, he was in a good mood.
We watched the Oscar awards together.

However, this playboy

this handsome man who used to seduce girls
with the speed of an assembly line

when he came and I sat down,
his first question was

"How many pills are you taking?"

I realised we were in the same boat.

It was a nice meeting.

I do not like to admit it,
but he is a good filmmaker.

I mean, I think my favourite sequence
of all time is the scene in the dance

when the factory girls waiting for these

what they imagine are
handsome young men

to step into the ballroom and...

far from them being
dashing young soldiers

they are middle-aged,
look like conscripts.

And the attempts by these older guys
to make friends with the girls

and the girls,
they're clearly disappointed

really are not turned on
by them at all.

And the guy trying to
get his wedding ring off

under the table and
it rolls under the...

it's just beautifully thought
through, beautifully done

with simplicity really.

Andrzej Wajda, Polish director,
told a story that when he was teaching

he was shooting a movie in 1968.

He left his teaching post for two months
and when he came back

he found that all his students
were making comedies.

He asked them, "What happened?"
"We saw Forman's Loves of a Blonde."

We were driving through Prague
with Miloš, going to his apartment

and there was a... near
the National Theatre

there is a tram station
and there was...

it was like 10 o'clock at night,
and there was this single girl

with the luggage standing,
waiting for the tram.

And Miloš said, "Let's pick her up."

I said, "Yeah, sure, why not!"

And, so we stopped and started
to talk to her and she

said she was looking for
her boyfriend in Prague

and couldn't find him, because
he didn't give her his address.

And Miloš invited her to come
with us and she agreed.

And then, in his apartment, she began
to tell us about the town she came from.

In that small town in
the northern Bohemia

90 per cent of their inhabitants
are women.

And lot of them young girls working
in the factories... shoe factories

and they are in panic.

And this girl met some engineer there,
who came there for just one day.

And she fell in love with him
because he was looking there and

they ended up sleeping together
that night.

And the next day he left and gave her
the address to visit him in Prague

so she came to Prague

only to find out that
that address doesn't exist.

I remember we just looked at each other
and we knew that's a movie.

God! Isn't that just beautiful?
Can I borrow it?

- Just for a minute, okay?
- All right.

God! It's so gorgeous.

- Is it gold?
- Of course.

The real thing?

You think he would give me
anything else?

Let me have it for a while.

Did you notice the stone?
It's a real diamond.

A real one?

Yes. Look how it sparkles.

I've never seen a real diamond.

He told me it was.

- He's nice, isn't he?
- Really nice.

Do you have his picture?

Before every take,
he would explain the situation

and say, "Use your own words."

So that's what I did, and I was worried if
it was okay or not, and he'd always say

"No, it's fine."
So it's all me, my own phrasing

the way I would say things.

What was wonderful for me,

was that I come on the set
and I tell them okay

"Okay, so now listen,
you are here, you are there

and you say something
like this and this and this

and you do something
like this and this and this

and that we'll end up something
like this and this and this."

And, you know, they remember
little bit, but not every word...

"Okay, let's do it!"

And now they have to do this

which they just could barely remember
the ideas what they have to touch upon

in their own words.

And I tell you, 50 percent times, it was
better than what was written on the page.

Miloš didn't let
his non-actors read the script

because he didn't want it
to be directed by their wives.

They would read it and say

"Daddy, don't say this.
You would sound stupid."

That is how he held back the spontaneity.

He wanted it to be
according to the script.

That's why he demonstrated every scene
in every film to every actor.

He always showed them
what he wanted from them.

So the non-actors just copied
what he had shown them.

Ondříček used to say that Forman
was the best actor of the New Wave.

He played all the characters
of his films for the non-actors.

Miloš's films give an impression

that lots of things happened
spontaneously on the set.

And it's not true.

Miloš tried it and it usually
doesn't work because

it's difficult to control the rhythm.

I regret that the Czech New Wave
could not continue.

I would have never left if I could
have made movies there.

Because I believe, and I know that
many people would argue with me about it

that you cannot really make
a film for ages,

which is not grounded in your culture.

We were very much influenced
by some Italian films

the Neorealist films like
Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti.

And then later the French New Wave
like François Truffaut

Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais.

But the nearest influence
came from Prague

from some people, they finished FAMU
a little bit earlier as we

like Jiří Menzel,
Miloš Forman, Ivan Passer

Evald Schorm -
fantastic film directors.

They did their first feature film and
they were really very influential for us.

We are twins, you know?

Yeah, we are twins.

- Hi!
- Hi!

- Are you okay?
- Is your work going well?

Yes. The singers are good.

I was here for the last half an hour
and they are magnificent.

- They are good.
- They are very good.

I won't disturb you because
you are working, and we are waiting...

This group is amazing.

The only idiot here is me.

There is another one
in this room right now.

Another one. My twin.

Watching them reminds me
of the shooting, which is nice.

But on the other hand, when I remember
the film, I idealise it a bit.

When I see it in reality,
I am slightly upset.

If you ask me which film I'm
looking forward to seeing

it is my next film.

No film will last forever.

When you're watching it

with respect, that
it's an old film, a famous film

it bores you, but you just don't admit it.

All the Antonionis and the...

the serious films, the valuable films

you watch them only with respect.

But there's no pleasure in watching them.

Unlike Laurel and Hardy, or Chaplin.

Or the Italian comedies from the 1950s.

You can watch them all the time.

Martin Frič's films.
Some of them. His comedies.

But the serious things...



While shooting
Those Wonderful Movie Cranks

what I enjoyed most was filming in Prague.

In the old, historical parts of Prague,
which have a charm

no other city on the entire planet has,
at least for me.

Even when I'm abroad,
visiting some nice places

I always look forward
to coming back to Prague because

Prague's atmosphere is one of a kind.


And I'm happy I was born there

and live there

and will die there too.

A wedding!

I always say that the 20th century
brought two unfortunate events:

the invention of the atom bomb
and the invention of the sound film.

So what I enjoyed most during the making
of Those Wonderful Movie Cranks

was the silent slapsticks.

I'm even proud of some because...

for example, when...

during the duel

the witnesses shoot each
other instead of the enemies.

That was my idea. But I'd never
have come up with it had I not

already seen a lot
of other gags before.

We had to shoot the old films.

The real old ones were unusable

and back then I was tempted
to come up with new ones.


We shot it.

The biggest gag is that...

some smart critic wrote about
the film that

the plus side of the film
was that it used little known

slapstick comedies.

The idiot did not realise
we'd shot it ourselves.

I have a bizarre, odd expectation.

First of all, I'm curious as to what all
has changed over the past 25 years...

because I'm sure that plenty has changed.

I can't say anything more exact now.
I'm only trying to convey the feeling I have.

A curious, strange sense
of anticipation...

It's been a long enough while.

Oh, yes. Yes, indeed.

My house is somewhere here.
Here it is.

And here is the garage,
the front of which sticks out.

This is really the same.

Sometimes, I'm saved
by a sort of an instinct.

In the case of Little Village

Zdeněk Svěrák imagined the driver
as the usual driver type:

well-built, energetic, and so on.

But my life experience told me

it would be more thrilling
if things were a bit different

if the wretch János Bán
is pitted against another wretch

a person with an inferiority complex,
somebody who is short and fat

which makes him fight
for his dignity even harder.

Good morning!
Can you tell me where Mr. Labuda lives?

Good morning! You are very few.

Good morning!

Good morning!

He offered me the script of
My sweet Little Village.

When I read it, I was excited.
So we met Menzel, and I told him

"Jiří, this is something wonderful!"
And this is his character.

He only said, "Yes, it is nice.
But you know

we have to make the effort
to shoot it well."

That was my first realisation that
he has doubts about everything.

I always say that he catches
each of his films like a disease.

A disease. He looks sick the entire time,
expecting everything to go wrong.

He pretends to be this helpless,
poor fellow.

But in here, it's all working.

I think the choice is important -
I don't do screen tests.

Gradually, I started to always choose
actors either because I knew them...

or, if I didn't know them, then
I had a chat with them...

just like that...about different things,
like what they do

about their parents and
that kind of nonsense.

And from that I could gather...
the trick is...

if I could enjoy a weekend out
with this person

if I could tolerate him next to me -
for half a day, a day or a week.

Let's consider those films...
those approximately eighty films

which I shot during my lifetime.

But if I hadn't made anything else
other than this film

it would've still been worth
coming to this profession.

This is contemporary.

Good morning!

Let's start feet together,
arms extended

and palms up.

- Raise your arms...
- Washed your feet?

I can tell.
Makes a difference to the driver.

What about the ears?

You always forget something.

Those sails must not be neglected.

Yesterday's load was cement.

If it rains,
concrete will set behind your ears.

They'll have to chisel it off.

It is difficult to have a character
who is mentally retarded

but who is not... laughable

who evokes pity, but who is funny
at the same time.

And he chose a Hungarian actor
who was absolutely unknown here

and the fact that he did not understand
Czech became his advantage.

He did not have to act like
he could not understand.

He actually didn't understand
what was being said.

Menzel doesn't psychologise...

and he hates psychology in an actor,
he's almost allergic to it.

I was taken aback by that,
because I'm a theatre actor.

It's essential for me to psychologise
my characters, from A to Z.

When Menzel wanted me
to forget about it and

leave it all up to
him as the director

I sometimes wasn't sure
what to do with it.

He creates psychology
using image composition.

He creates psychology,
instead of with the actor, using editing.

He creates it using
special compositions of details

that he offers to
create certain atmosphere.

He doesn't like it when it's the actors
who create the atmosphere.

We got to the point when I said

"Jirka, let's be careful
not to fall in between two stools."

"Because you see the world this way and
I see it that way..."

"We might be in
danger of falling in between."

And he said, "Martin, you know what?"

"We'll push the stools together,
and sit on them comfortably."

Here time has stood still.

And here was the pigeonry.

And every morning, while others had
breakfast in the pub

I had to come here and do my job
with the pigeons.

After a week, somebody put a few grains
of wheat on my shoulder.

I kneeled, and as by then the pigeons
were used to me

the pigeon sat here and from then onwards
every day, whenever...

and they shot it -

I have it in a shot that
the pigeon sits on my shoulder.

It managed to deal with the characters
with so much humanity

from such a human side

with so much love... It is so trivial,
because it is human... It is human.

Excuse me!
Good morning! Good morning!

Yes, yes.

A little bit older...

like was Otík before

twenty five years ago.


You haven't aged at all.

He taught us the basic rules of comedy

so that the comedy has exact timing,
that it works.

You time me.


Jesus! Vašek. Don't be a fool!

Don't, Pepik's here!

- Thirty three!
- Too bad!

Once more!

- How long can he stay underwater?
- About 30 seconds.

- Please, go away!
- We have plenty of time.

Just a carp.

That was nice.

It's a situation I experienced
myself during a walk...

One lady was measuring
her husband's time

and when he dived under water,
she invited me for coffee.

That's Svěrák!

Svěrák wrote it... Beautifully!

Of course, with Libuška and Honza Hartl,
it was happening on its own...

He showed us the slapstick
comedy Tom and Jerry

and that's how we learnt gags.

That's how he used to torture us.

Their humour is different
than Hrabal's.

Definitely. And it's closer to me.

It's humour that always touches you

you always think of something
you wouldn't.

That's the essence of Svěrák's humour.

I'm not lucky

because Svěrák is possibly
the best scriptwriter here

but he has a son who does film.

He is the director, and he,
as a father, writes only for him.

He should've put his son to the
post office, not film.

I was comparing my work with his
when I was doing my first script...

technical script, you know,
how many shots to do.

I was thinking,
"Oh, isn't it too much?"

I ended up with 1150 shots
in the technical script.

So I took My Sweet Little Village
from Jiří Menzel, and I counted the shots.

And he had 125 shots.
And I had 1100...

What should I do?

And then I took some American film, it was
Blade Runner, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner

and I counted the shots...
each shot a mark, you know

and he had 1000-something as well.

So I said, "Okay, so I'm going closer
to the American storytelling

and Menzel is the classical storytelling."

Because he comes from
the theatre background

or he loves the theatre very much

and he loves actors.

So he's setting the scenes
for just few shots.

Varicose veins.

Look at mine!

- Do you wear elastic stockings?
- I have to.

- Do you take Anavenol?
- I do.

That's it then.
So, go on.

I'm serving beer...

someone asks for the bill...

I turn my head, and it won't go back.

Can you turn the whole body,
like this?

- Sure.
- Turn the whole body then.

He rehearses a lot.
I prefer to capture the spontaneity.

So I don't repeat shots too much.
I try to shoot every shot

every take, from a different angle,
so that I have really rich material.

I think that he works with
a more fixed script.

I have the script only so that
I don't forget what the story is...

but I actually almost never look at it.

What gave you the idea that

the seventh step would give it
the right temperature?

Long-term trials.
It's warm on the sixth

too cold on the eighth.

How beautiful the people are!

What kind of love he has concerning
the people portrayed by him...

what kind of warm feeling
is coming from the screen.

And if you're laughing about
the stupidity of his characters

you are laughing not about the people,
you are laughing about yourself

because you know that the people are doing
exactly what you are doing.

So he is, I think, one of
the most lovable film director

whose stories are giving
you new power for the life.

It's atrocious. It isn't
a Hrabal adaptation anymore

it's that good boy Svěrák.

It's kitsch.

The old Menzel wasn't kitsch yet.

But this is kitsch.

Because the most important thing
in the film is sex.

I think Hrabal
is deeper than me.

He captures reality
in a more plastic way.

It's true that I like
nice and polite people

and so does Menzel, so our films
are a celebration of people like that.

Even so, I regard it as a film

which was escapist,
deliberately non-controversial

even idyllic...

Once I heard critic Jan Rejžek
criticise Mr. Menzel

for sugarcoating village life,
which was nothing like that in reality.

I told him, "Look, if I were the director
and Radek John wrote the screenplay

it'd be about the manure in the village."

But in this case,
the authors wanted to show something else.

I have no problem with it.

That's what Turgenev does
in Russian literature.

But Dostoyevsky doesn't.

So, if you see the difference
between Dostoyevsky and Turgenev

you will see the difference - I'll be
vulgar now - between me and Menzel.

You see, there are different Menzels.
There is Menzel in connection with Hrabal

that is Closely Watched Trains
and Larks on a string

and Menzel in connection with Svěrák.

And the one connected with Svěrák
is a little sweeter. Too sweet!

They both seemed to be doing it
as a sort of a side job.

"Okay, Zdeněk wrote something,
so I'll try to film it."

But they had no idea
they were making a film

that'd get an Oscar nomination,
get sold to the whole world

and 4 million people
would come to see it

in a country of 15 million citizens.

The fact is that the moment
they were announcing the winners

my heart was beating
and I was thinking

"Maybe after all..
it would be nice to have two Oscars."

It makes you this crazy and vain.

But actually...

I don't know what film won that year,
but I don't care.

I think I've had enough fame.

When they came to the gate with the star,
both of them jumped

and that closed the film beautifully.

Sometimes, I have moments
when I am a genius

but sadly not so often!

We have a custom that when someone
dies and he has a funeral

his favourite music compositions
are played.

For reasons I have just mentioned

I'd like to get an edited version
of the lines from this film

and play them at the funeral.

Everyone would remember the scenes
just like you and they would smile.

I think that'd be a beautiful departure
from the world.

Beneath him
the beautiful, distant places lie

around which mountains darkly rise

a wreath of forests embracing them.

Amidst the flower-spattered ground,
the bright lake sleeps in slumber sound.

When it was the worst in the 70s,
Jiří Menzel said a beautiful thing.

He said, "That we are suffering,
that's God's punishment... punishment for

having experienced the best period
of Czech cinema, and in that time

we made our own movies."

We are a generation that experienced
not only the turn of a century

but of a millennium.

We experienced socialism,
the Second World War

contra-revolution, the fall of socialism.

The only thing was that when I made
Capricious Summer in 1967

the next year the "capricious summer" 1968
came with the arrival of the Russians.

And when in 1988
I made End of Old Times

one year later the "end of old times" came.

Now I say I won't do Vančura anymore.

If I made Fields of Plough, Fields of War,
there would be war in Europe!

The Berlin Wall was a global problem.

It almost led to a world war.

It's not possible that we can't manage
to pull down this wall of ours which

consists of our current representatives.

Resign, Resign!

Actors were the ones who started
the Revolution in Slovakia

and I was one of the first
who came out on the square

and spoke in front of people
and read out the resolution.

We did not know yet what would happen.
There were snipers on the rooftops

and we didn't know if they
were going to shoot us.

At the end of the 1980s, it was clear that
the situation in the whole Eastern bloc

with political repression and constant
pressure was not sustainable

and that society would have to undergo
some type of transformation

in a more democratic direction...

It wasn't sustainable
economically, socially.

The young generation was revolting
more and more, which culminated

in the events of the year 1989.

Students' problems can't be resolved
without sorting out

the accumulated social
and political problems.

These events are a logical consequence
of the social and political crisis.

I'd like to express my hope
that no one will manage to separate

the students from the workers and
the intelligentsia. We are one nation!

Mr. Reagan, with star Wars, let's say,
he killed the communism, you know

that only this fiction, Star Wars,
and also the space system

which was never really possible to do it

the Russians were scared to death,
they cannot follow it

and basically they gave up,
you know, at Gorbachev.

That means, they killed Communism
on their own.

The Soviet Union as a system,
the Soviet system crashed

because it was unsustainable
from the very beginning.

It ignored all human rights
and economic laws.

And finally, it stifled
any freedom of expression

and society without freedom
is just helpless.

In the end,
Americans were so ahead of Russians

that Russians couldn't compete anymore.

To save the Soviet Union
that was going bankrupt

Gorbachev had to do something

and he did something quite radical.

Together with him, dozens, hundreds,
and subsequently thousands of people

started to feel a direct responsibility
for the fate of their country.

They were asking for a dialogue...

and they got
an unmistakably violent answer.

The moment when
the Velvet Revolution took place

it was a moment when we were...

We were in a state of euphoria, because

for us, it wasn't completely unexpected.

For some two years before,
we felt that it was coming.

And the fact that we were
located in the city centre

that the demonstrations
were passing by these windows

and we were in those demonstrations,
it was great.

Plus the artistic colleges

because not only schools
but also theatres went on strike

so we went to talk at the theatres

and to theatre workers.

And we had editing rooms
and such things at our disposal

so all kinds of film footage
and eyewitness accounts

were copied here
or at the FAMU studio

and then it was distributed.

So we were very actively involved.

November 17 was the day of demonstrations
in Prague, which were connected with

the alleged death of a student
and the whole country was

within a few days, on its feet.

Suddenly, students with blood on them
started coming to my apartment

to see my son,
who was also a student then.

I understood something horrible
was happening.

Then the news that somebody
was killed got around.

The shameless show of arbitrary power
sparked off nationwide resistance.

I'd say that only a few people believed
the regime would collapse so quickly.

It took everybody by
surprise, and I'd say

back then, few people would be happy

with the idea that we'd
reinstate capitalism.

It wasn't a revolution for capitalism

it was a revolution for freedom...
of movement, thought and information.

And in my opinion, not many people
in 1989 knew it would bring capitalism

if not only a few. For me, as a student
at the time, it was freedom.

Suddenly, the Rolling Stones
were in Prague.

Three years before,
a friend told me in a pub

"I tell you, Václav Havel
will be president."

It was absurd. It was unimaginable.

And now, here's is Josef Kemr!

Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!

The feeling was absolute joy.

I never would have imagined I could
live to see such a thing happen.

None of us dared even hope
anything like that would happen.

Let peace remain in this country

Hatred, envy, spite, fear and strife

Let it all end

And my life took a 180 degree turn,
in the right direction.

Today, I feel I live
in a country just like

that of those whose freedom
we used to envy.

They're leaving.

What you called 'Revolution',
I call a 'coup d'état'.

Because that's what happened, in fact.


that's how I assess it.

I believe that...

on one hand, it really helped the society

because suddenly, it was free;

on the other hand,
a lot of damage was done.

Amongst the biggest damage
of the coup was

the privatisation of cinema
in Slovakia.

The leadership, which belonged to
the Communist Party, restricted us terribly.

But we weren't restricted by money.

I never knew the cost of a film
that I was going to make.

I think the transition
must have been very difficult

because they all dreamt
of making films in a free country...

but then it turned out
there was nothing to make

that there were no screenplays
for the new audiences...

If I shot the film
Dragon's Return today

I wouldn't get a single penny to shoot it.


in the regime that I fought against

I didn't have to worry
about how much it costs.

If you see today's democracy

you see that this is changing into a,
kind of, distorted idea about capitalism

that cannot stand anymore democracy

because capitalism is imposed as

the system in which everybody
has to believe.

There are 3-4 institutions
that are just...

reigning the world and we are
just in position to be very passive.

And now, remembering the Soviet times,
without sentiments but with the knowledge

now I could say that democracy in the West

existed parallel due to
the existence of Soviet Union.

After the 1989 November Revolution,
Czech cinema changed totally, absolutely

more than you could possibly imagine.

Until then, the Iron Curtain
which divided East from West

made it possible for cinema to
be a kind of self-financing circuit.

In fact, whatever cinema earned was
channelled back into the film industry.

The best and biggest blockbusters
from the West weren't allowed in.

When E. T. came,
it was bought at a set price

and whatever it earned over that amount

wasn't returned to
the producer in America

but remained in Czech cinema

and Czech filmmakers
were able to film with that.

So we lived inside a sort of jar,
living in a kind of glass bell jar

which wasn't accessible to everyone.

But then after the Revolution, suddenly
the rules of a free market applied.

Suddenly, there wasn't the certainty
that Barrandov had the money

and Barrandov was out of money.

Menzel, just like other directors
after November 1989

wanted to catch up on the lost period.

So they mainly reached
for material which was

forbidden, in vaults, etc.

Maybe this is also why

he filmed Václav Havel's
Beggar's Opera.

It was, as we know, one of the plays
that was strictly forbidden.

And when in 1975

amateur actors tried to introduce it
outside Prague

the police immediately clamped down, hard.

So it's as if Menzel wanted to
repay this debt.

But, unfortunately...

his adaptation was very hasty
and, like in Hrabal's case

he didn't manage to find in Havel's text

the other plans and subtexts.

It's as if he was really only filming

a famous historical story,
or a paraphrase of...

Bertolt Brecht

and forgot Havel again wanted
to publicly express

his view of a society controlled
by mafias and gangsters.

The sets were ready, but we were not
employed at Barrandov any more.

The new director fired all of us

and no one knew if we were
going to shoot it or not.

In the end, it was the last film
which was produced by Barrandov.

Actually, all of these directors were
employees of Barrandov Studios

because as I said,
there was a monopoly of

Barrandov Studios over
the feature production.

This is the premiere.

Here is President Havel.

Jirka Menzel.

Labuda as Peachum.

The film delegation.

I think that Beggar's Opera,
The Chocolate Cop and Chonkin

are things which Menzel
shouldn't have even tried.

There was nothing wrong with
the Chonkin film in my view.

It's a perfectly good script

it was faithful to the novel which
is considered a satirical classic

film was well made...

I think it failed because
it was produced...

It was a wrong film
at the wrong time.

We should've left it to the Russians.
We have Russian actors there

but it should have been written
and directed by Russians, too.

I hadn't taken into account
the degree to which

the Czech allergy
for everything Russian

was so intense.

One of the reasons he didn't
work after that for a long time

was because that film failed.

And it failed for some obvious reasons.

One, that it was shot in Russian,
used Russian actors

it wasn't going to be popular
with the Czech audience.

Two, foreign audiences, because
the Soviet system had collapsed

somehow the resonance of
the story was lost as well.

That's why the first movies were so
easy for me. Because I wasn't scared.

I jumped in headfirst without thinking.

And then, when
I wasn't allowed to produce

the next movies, after
I had the mandatory pause

I had to think very hard.
That's not good.

I was scared of making a bad movie.

One starts to speculate a lot

one thinks about his own experience,
compares, and it's no longer so natural.

I always say it's the same as making love.

When you are young and start,
you follow your heart.

You don't think much and jump
headfirst into love.

When you get older, you speculate.
It's just not the same.

When I did
I served the King of England

after those 12 years,
I was curious myself

when I came on the first shoot day

what the shooting would be like.

I didn't think about it much,
about those 12 years.

Whenever I did something,
it was because

someone asked me to do
it, and so I worked.

No one asked me to do anything and
I didn't want to beg for work somewhere.

So I did not work for a long time.

I wasn't very happy about
my two last films

I mean Chonkin
and Beggar's Opera.

I think Beggar's Opera didn't turn out well,
and I spoiled the end of Chonkin.

I was not very self-confident.

Moreover, I was offered to work
in the theatre, which is more comfortable.

It is a completed text and
you don't have to suffer with the script.

So I worked in the theatre,
in Prague and abroad as well

and it was enough for me.

I didn't mind that
I wasn't shooting films.

If I missed something

it was the fact that the royalties
in theatre are smaller than in film.

That was the only thing I missed a bit.
But otherwise, I always used to say -

"When I'm not making films,
I'm not losing anything

the spectators are losing."

I am sorry for being so vain.

"Every actor should feel like in a crib."

And I think that it's quite
an accurate expression

of Jirka's relationship to the actors.

Jirka loves actors.

He gives you a feeling of freedom

you feel that you're free to create

but it's all under his supervision.

He knows where this freedom of yours
is going to end up

and it ends up exactly
where he wants.

One person I met told me

"Jiří Menzel in this movie

I think this is the thing of
an old man doing cinema

so many women, naked, and..."

It was... What is this guy talking about!

Because I felt this
love, this part of the story

and for me, it was so wonderful...

loving the actors, really, the characters,
and loving also the women

and to show how he sees them or how
he loves or what he loves about them.

And I loved the way he did it,
I loved it very much because...

he has not women that are so beautiful
when you first look at them

but he takes so much time

he gives the camera so much time
to observe them and, in such a...

It was really a special way to see, so...


He takes the time to...
that you really...

When you're watching the people,
the character

you really can fall in love
with them.

A director who suddenly has two films
under his belt

which didn't turn out
to be the best

who's used to...
scooping up the biggest triumphs

he suddenly started to
doubt himself and was very

very careful in selecting
his subsequent material.

For this reason, even though
he got loads of material

and I believe that
some of it was good

he wasn't able to choose.
He felt insecure.

Suddenly, he began doubting himself.

And, of course,
for a director, any creator...

if you stop practising your craft
for a while

you lose your sense of security

lose your confidence.

And to start...

the longer you leave it,
the harder it gets.

The fact that he wanted to start with

I served the King of England is logical.
It's Hrabal.

And that he wanted to make his comeback
with something different than

what people expected, is also logical.

As to whether it
succeeded or not...

the response from the Czech critics
was relatively unkind.

Because naturally the book

I served the King of England
is a national treasure

it's one of Bohumil Hrabal's best works.

And when we read the book, all of us,
all of us saw the filmed version in our heads.

So when Jiří Menzel came
along years later...

Twenty-thirty years later
with his own version

we labelled him as bad

that he didn't film the one
we had in each of our heads.

But thank God he came back.

An unusual way of settling disputes
at the Karlovy Vary Festival:

Director Jiří Menzel attacked
the producer Jiří Sirotek...

who one year ago sold the rights
to Hrabal's I Served the King of England

to Nova TV, even though it had been agreed
that Menzel would make the film.

The script was for me,
the rights were for me

and he sold them behind my back.

Here in the Hotel Thermal,
in front of a packed auditorium

Jiří Menzel attacked Mr. Sirotek
with a stick like this.

Karel Kachyňa already wanted
to make the novel into a film.

So did Jiří Menzel.

Then there was a great confusion
around the rights to the novel.

The film was put on hold for a while.

Then other filmmakers got
temporarily involved, including myself.

I think the novel is un-filmable.

Menzel made it into a film

and as a person who'd created four great
films in cooperation with Hrabal

he made a fifth one which emphasises
a single aspect of the novel.

But this novel is much more complex than
the Closely Watched Trains novel

or Mrs. Poldinka, which Hrabal and he made
into the screenplay for Larks on a String.


I think that when Petr Jarchovský
and I were working on the screenplay

- I must emphasise that at that point,
Menzel didn't want to be involved -

he had grown bitter about it

and I made sure to check with him
that he didn't want to make the film.

Meanwhile, we were trying
to write the screenplay

and then half a year was spent
trying to get the money for it.

And whenever I returned
to the screenplay

I would discover it was all wrong.

Everything we added was nonsense.

Everything we took out...

Because the novel
had turned into a legend.

When Menzel was shooting
Closely Watched Trains

Hrabal was a well-known writer,
but he wasn't a living legend yet.

But with I Served the King of England,
people would ask us in the street

"Are you going to film
The King of England?"

"And who did you cast as this character?"

And you think to yourself,
"Christ, we left that character out!"

This trauma remains deep inside,
taking different shapes

and from time to time,
it surfaces again.

And by a turn of fate, mercifully

I was able to play
that character in the film.

But again, I repeat that
all our experience we bore

was despite the brutality we witnessed

consciously or subconsciously reflected
in the way we played our characters.

There were fantastic absurd views
of the world which I still remember.

I've never thought about it as a real
story of a person living in that time

but as an imagination of the world itself.
What possibilities does the little man

have in the big world and what the world
is like. For me, the adaptation

was disappointing because I don't see
a lot of Hrabal's fantasy in it.

Unfortunately, again, at every meeting
of Menzel with Hrabal's draft

only the surface remained,
and not the submersion

into the soul or the character
of the Czech nation.

Whatever you do, they want
you to be somebody else.

And I think this was the case.

They wanted him to become somebody else.
And why would he change?

If you know, that in history of cinema,
Hitchcock was doing fifty films

in which you could recognise Hitchcock
like this, but you could enjoy it.

And the sign of Jiří Menzel
is recognisable

the question is that you
expect Jiří Menzel's movie

not the movie that
is based on the book.

The film has Menzel's poetics.
It is, kind of, tender.

I'm not happy that the part is missing
where Jan Dítě lives at Šumava...

how they shoot his dog and
those kind of stories...

I think that they are important.

That's where Hrabal tried
to insert his philosophy...

that Tao Te Ching,
to be at the bottom and look upwards.

The absence of Hrabal was important,
you know.

I felt that there were
certain things in the film

which would not have
been presented that way

if Hrabal had himself been involved.

Suddenly, he was not there and I had
to deal with it on my own, without him.

It was very hard work, precisely
because all the time

I tried to remember how he'd react
to the changes I made.

On top of that, the book is very rich.

I had to leave out many things
in order to fit it into two hours.

I had to rewrite it and shorten it

and devise the "braid"
as we used to do with

Mr. Hrabal to create a distinct story.

It was a job for a murderer.

If I were to criticise
anything about Jiří Menzel

it's that

he's an amazing director

but far from an amazing screenwriter.

In fact, for the script
you always need someone else.

He's able to elevate the material
that's been written

which is a rare gift.

But he's not exactly
the one to write...

who's able to write material
and then direct it.

When I meet him up there one day,
I'll ask him if I made it well or not.

He imagined this character 'Jan Díte'
to have something from Charlie Chaplin.

And I was promoted to front waiter

under the tutelage of
the maître d', Mr. Skřivánek.

The people who wanted to criticise
the film would say

"He cast it wrong. The main character
was really disgusting."

And I would tell them

"The protagonist is disgusting
even in the book."

"The book is based on the fact
that the protagonist is an asshole

who betrays his friend

robs people,
collaborates with the Nazis."

He's a real crook.

He's a Czech crook who
tells beautiful stories

in the poetic language
of Bohumil Hrabal.

Menzel is repulsed by the idea
of creating a disgusting character.

And the audience doesn't want to
identify with a character like that.

But the novel contains
this essential paradox.

You can't completely avoid it

because the protagonist
acts like a Nazi collaborator

his actions are spineless.

But at the same time

- similarly to Švejk, with whom
you also don't know whether

he's a hero or a villain or what -

he speaks the language
of the most poetic novelist...

Bohumil Hrabal.

So it's a conundrum.

That's the problem with all movies
I did based on Hrabal's work.

He is way richer than I will ever be.

He perceives the world
as a synergism

or a sisterly relationship of
sorrow and joy

bad things and joyful things

like they just belong together in life.

I don't have... the strength.
I'm spoiled by life, unlike him.

So I rather want to see
the better side of the world.

I base this on the fact that
everyone has sorrows, every viewer.

But the good thing is to enliven
his will to live, his desire for life

or if he finds out that life
isn't that tragic.

Hrabal is a genius in combining
this together. I am not.

I realise that's my big handicap
in Hrabal's movies

that I can't achieve what he can.

That's why I refuse to make
movies based on Hrabal's work.

I want someone else to do it,
someone who understands the other side

the drastic side of his works.

As far as I'm concerned, Jiří Menzel...

made great films and
I really like Bohumil Hrabal's books.

And the truth is,
Menzel was the best at it.

When somebody else tried to make
a Hrabal film, there was no Hrabal in it.

The film wasn't received so well
in the Czech Republic

even though it was well received outside.

And... he wrote that it is
so wonderfully made

and that it is such a moving metaphor

of everything we experienced
in Czechoslovakia.

And if we are lucky, we are going
to experience once again.

I find it hard to believe
that you are also Czech.

I don't know if that's
a compliment per se

but from Miloš it's nice.


The beer is good here.
This is where I'll be coming.

The past is past.

As they say, "Lumberjacks
have come to our woods"...

and all that's left is the memories.

The fact that no film comparable to
Closely Watched Trains or Daisies

was ever made after 1990,
I believe isn't a matter of financing.

It's a matter of...

I don't know how long
Ancient Greece lasted

but all the famous plays we know
were written within a fifty-year period

maybe even less than that.

All the ancient Greek plays that are
still staged today

were created in Pericles' times.

But the empire lasted how long?
Hundreds of years.

Considering my age, you have to say that

it's the end of my work.



Bye-bye life!

The truth is when I was a young filmmaker,
Jakubisko and I were saying

"It would be so great if at least
one of my films stayed relevant

for a long time, if it passed
the test of time."

So, I hope I managed to do that
with some of my films, yes.

...35, 36, 37, 38, 39,
40, 41, 42, 43...

Halt! Halt!


Now I know what love means.

I wish this moment would last forever.

Don't be so mean to me!

Life without you is miserable.

No elements can hurt us!

We are lilies of the field!

Gunpowder Test No. 1...
No. 2... No. 3!

So I tell you gentlemen, when one day
you see a chapel amongst the wild thyme

for God's sake, remember
that the road leading here

is one on which everything
we no longer believe in, departs from us.

That girl

that drowned girl, looked like Marketa.

Strike up the band!

Continue, please. Continue!

Go on, go on up there!

Music! What's wrong?

We're supposed to play alone?

Of course.

I'm going over there!

Bartošová, I see you!

That's all?

Another question?

The time spent with Menzel
is a... how to put it...

a pleasant walk

that expresses and reminds you
of the moments offered to you by life.

That's funny!

I've definitely seen all his films.

Once, it was at Barrandov, I assisted Vávra
and he was used to walking around

and I, as his assistant, had to
walk behind him in case

he had some idea or something.
He was walking in that long hall

it was quiet, and suddenly he stopped,
stepped in front of me and told me

"Anyway, Menzel is the best one
out of you." Well. And it was sudden

it came out of nowhere.

I think that Menzel is like a drug,
he is like marijuana.

He gives you a sweet, cheerful feeling.

There aren't many such
filmmakers in the world.

I don't know what you're going to cut out
and I didn't talk about him very nicely

but I think that he really is one of the
most significant Czech directors.

The only thing I am sorry about is that

he wasn't able to develop his talent fully
because of the time.

He is an ironic God.

There's a great sense of human frailty

and the warmth towards people,
which I respond to.

And there's an enjoyment of people.

And I think that's the...

a real enjoyment of people's
idiosyncrasies, of their failings

their shortcomings, their strengths.

It's the humanism that I like.

And in those early ones
particularly, there's...

just the sense of finding the
right camera position, the right frame

the right movement,
the right rhythm, the right editing...

that just allows you to
share the experience and

understand the people
in front of the camera.

I've always let people talk me into it.

And the problem is that now

there's nobody trying to
talk me into anything.

Nobody wants me to make any films.

I'm probably too old for everybody.

I try to see myself
with the same eyes that

I used to look at my older colleagues with
when I was young.

So, I understand
I may not be one of them anymore.

It's not that I want to make another
film to preserve my status as a director.

Definitely not.

But I'm a bit ashamed
that my wife works

and I'm just slacking off.

So, maybe I could make another film.

I was particularly proud...

that Josef Somr was in the film...

though he looked a bit better
and was livelier back then.

I'm still alive, you know.

Which is why I want to
invite you all...

to the 60th or the 70th anniversary
of our filming in Loděnice.

Actually, my father

was also a train conductor.

And when he saw the film,
he said something like this...

"What you are showing in the film,
that a..."

"that a..."

"that a girl would come at night..."

"to the station and
you did such things with her there..."

"That is simply out of the question."

When I told this to Mr. Hrabal

he laughed at me and said

"Much worse things
were going on there..."

"Or more beautiful things..."

Nothing survives a few years
or even a season...

and this applies also to art.

At every moment, there is
something new which they

write about for half a year
then forget about...

And the films are also being made
in a hurried fashion.

They appear in the cinema for two weeks
and then the curtains close on them.

Unfortunately it's like that...
and that applies

also to books, to everything,
to visual arts...

There's always a new wave,
always something new...

and everything is only short term...