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PRODUCTION Czech Republic

Bathory controversy on and off the screen


A legend has many faces reads the byline of Juraj Jakubisko’s ambitious new co-production, Bathory [+see also:
film profile
, which is to be released in theatres around Europe this October.

The symbolism could not have been more appropriate. Just a few days after the director’s wife and producer Deana Jakubiskova announced that the epic film was in the final stages of post-production, they were in the news again. Police in Prague arrested two men, accused of stealing the film’s working copy and blackmailing Jakubiskova for €20,000.

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The men are apparently employees of another production house and that makes the case even more intriguing, just as this mega-film’s production has been from the start.

Jakubisko, who is Slovak but based in Prague, had to fight the legal challenge of three other directors for the rights to make the film about the 16th century countess Elizabeth Bathory, alias the Bloody Lady of Cachtice, a notorious torturer and killer of dozens of girls and young women.

Then his choice for the lead role, Famke Janssen, withdrew her interest before Anna Friel came in to save the situation.

Then it was the money. With an €11m budget, the film was shot in at least 20 different locations, with hundreds of actors, extras and period costumes needed. During the long eight months of filming financing became an issue – there was bad blood from people working in production who were owed money. The producers said that they solved this by borrowing money.

“But all this is behind us,” says Jakubiskova. “We have presented the film abroad and everybody compares it to the most expensive Hollywood epics.”

In fact, Bathory, filmed entirely in English, is aimed at an international public. It was produced by Jakubisko Film Slovakia, Lunar Fame and Film and Music Entertainment Ltd UK and Eurofilm Hungary, with the support of Czech Television and the Film Funds of Czech and Slovak Republics.

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