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Václav Kadrnka • Filmmaker

“Work first, think later”

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- Cineuropa talked to Czech writer-director-producer Václav Kadrnka about his upcoming film, which concludes a loose trilogy and was introduced at the Czech Film Springboard

Václav Kadrnka  • Filmmaker

Czech director Václav Kadrnka studied theatre in the UK before returning to the Czech Republic to study at FAMU. He shot several student films that travelled the festival circuit and finished his critically acclaimed feature-length debut, Eighty Letters, independently in 2011. With his sophomore feature already finished and ready for release, the director met up with Cineuropa at the Czech Film Springboard, where he unveiled his third feature, Saving One Who Was Dead (read the report), which is set to tie up the trilogy. Besides discussing his plans for his third project, he also talked about alternative forms of film funding.

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Cineuropa: Your breakthrough came in 2011 with your feature-length debut, Eighty Letters, an autobiographical film made independently. How did that happen?
Václav Kadrnka:
I had a desire to make a personal film, a film based on a memory and a subjective point of view where the central topic would be the absence of a father and the desire to reach him. Such an approach to the topic precludes conventional screenwriting schemes and established narrative means. The script was unorthodox: it only had 30 pages, little dialogue and passages describing “only” the soundtrack. It was hard to pursue financing because of preconceptions, such as “one page of script equals one minute of film” and that the dialogue should be the central pillar of the characters’ psychology. Ultimately, the movie was made independently, which gave me a certain amount of freedom, and most importantly, nobody had any expectations for the film.

Your second project, The Little Crusader, to be released this year, is a medieval road movie. How did you make the transition from an autobiographical topic to an adaptation of a poem by Jaroslav Vrchlický?
The poem by Vrchlický is an inner record of a father searching for his son in the times of the Crusades. The myth about the “children’s crusade” forms the background of the film’s plot. The book deals with the absence of a loved one and, most importantly, the impact of this absence on the father. It encompasses themes I am interested in – the motifs of ephemerality and of searching, fatherly love, and the family bond as a manifestation of grace. The essence of both films is the same, and I left a little reference to The Little Crusader in Eighty Letters.

You are currently working on a new project, Saving One Who Was Dead, which will conclude the loose trilogy on “the absence of a loved one”. What is the concept behind this trilogy?
Besides the thematic bond, all three films have a similar narrative structure. They are set in alien, anonymous spaces, they lack a “home”, and they work with the motif of a father, mother and son. They are three films set in different periods. But I do not think these things through; they emerge by themselves and happen afterwards. I am an adherent of the “work first, think later” method.

How will Saving One Who Was Dead differ from the previous titles in the trilogy?
Compared to the previous films, Saving One Who Was Dead will be set in the present and will be based more on dialogue. I would like it to be the most illuminating film and the most humorous of the trilogy, despite it revolving around seemingly the most tragic situation. In the previous two films, the absent person leaves a trail of personal objects or tracks that are linked to that individual. In the case of Saving One Who Was Dead, it will be the body itself that has got stuck here, and work has to be done on it in order to unite the body and the mind. The basic choreography of the movie will be an ageing mother and adult son leaned over the father’s body, both concentrated on small, personal rituals that can call the father back into his body. It is an intimate project and is smaller in scale than The Little Crusader.

What is the timeline for the project?
I would like to have the script finished by autumn 2017. I am working on the visuals of the film and the locations at the same time as I am writing. We are also collaborating with sound composer Martin Ožvold on the audio composition, revolving around the theme of “caught in space”. I am hoping to have the sound ready before the actual shoot or even before the script is finished. I would like to start shooting next year, and then go directly to post-production if everything runs smoothly – and in the world of film, it never runs smoothly.

Did you contemplate alternative funding for Saving One Who Was Dead as well?
No, Eighty Letters was my first film, and this alternative approach suited it. You can do it once, but then it gets harder, and to shoot the third film without the support of institutions would be impossible. However, things got fairly complicated for me, so who knows. I want to continue to produce with my wife and father, as I think this family synergy is part of my films.

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