“The search for love”
by Theodore Schwinke
- Czech auteur Bohdan Slama shares his thoughts behind the story of A Country Teacher and his view of contemporary Czech cinema, and reveals the subject of his next film
Cineuropa: A Country Teacher [+see also:
interview: Bohdan Slama
film profile] is often described as the final third of a trilogy. What do you see as the unifying theme of your three films?
Bohdan Slama: I have a problem with this trilogy idea. I decided it would be a third part of a trilogy because it was connected with those films before. But I don't think that the fourth one will be so different. So I've decided not to think of it as a trilogy at all. Very simply what connects these films is the search for love. In each story there is a character who is not happy with his personal life and must somehow discover the real value of his life, even if it's not a great love. In this film, the teacher finds friendship, which is a kind of love. The story isn't really finished at the end of the film. He just finds opportunities but what will happen is still very open. Finding love is not the theme of the film. The theme is if these three characters will find a path to each other.
Is the teacher escaping from or searching for something?
He's not isolating himself from society so much as finding something new in himself. That's why he came to the village, I think. I tried to express that he's searching for something, as we all do in life. The point is not escape. He could be trying to escape, but you can never escape from yourself.
Your films have competed at many respected international festivals, but are you disappointed that you've not been selected for Cannes or Berlin?
For me, it's fair game. Sure, we wanted to be in Cannes. When we started trying for Berlin, I knew that if it didn't happen, I'd have to accept it. They have their own rules, their own values. Likewise in Cannes, they have high-quality films of drama, of human existence, and they always have really great films. In the end, they didn't want it, but it's ok. I'm happy that people like the film in the different countries where we have screened it, so I'm not crying over it.
How would you appraise the work of your generation of Czech filmmakers?
In contemporary Czech cinema, directors and scriptwriters don't often find a theme that is interesting for an international audience. Jan Sverak is well known but not all his films go abroad. The same is true for Petr Zelenka. Everyone is trying to reach a foreign audience, but it's not so simple. There's no rule. For me, I must have a powerful human theme that can attract people everywhere. I don't think about this village or about Prague or about a French audience, but I always ask myself about each scene: Is it strong enough that people everywhere can understand it?
What can you tell us about your next project?
I am working on a script about St. Vojtech [St. Adalbert]. It takes place in the 10th century, but I feel there are lot of hot, contemporary themes in his story. It will be a low-budget historical film, so without big scenes and so on. The story is about his last days and his death, when he went on a mission to the area that is now Kaliningrad. It's set in nature and in a little village. What's important for me is the theme: the value of sacrifice and the value of life. Right now I will be happy if I can just finish the script.