“We just wanted to make a really dark film”
by Theodore Schwinke
- Interview with a 36-year-old Czech director, a graduate of the famous FAMU Film School , who returns to cinema after 11 years spent working in television and documentary
Set in 1982 Czechoslovakia, Walking Too Fast [+see also:
interview: Radim Spacek
film profile] is an utterly unsentimental look at one man's moral corruption, set amid the broader malaise of communist normalization. The film features a cast of lesser-known actors and an uncompromising screenplay from first-time scriptwriter Ondřej Štindl.
Cineuropa: How did you come to be involved in Walking Too Fast?
Radim Špaček: I came on when the screenplay was completely finished. Ondrej had started to write it in 2001. He and some friends had seen [Martin] Scorcese's Casino and, sitting around the pub, got to talking if it would be possible to set a thriller like this in 1980s Czechoslovakia. Three years later, I got an offer from [producer] Vratislav Šlajer to direct.
You purposefully avoided casting local stars in the film. Why?
First, I have always experimented with non-actors and unknown actors because I think the film is more convincing if you're not bothered by stardom. I know a good film needs good actors, but still I was quite annoyed by those 12 faces that appear in every Czech film. Second, I'm also an actor, I studied acting, so knew that there are good actors here who don't get a chance.
Walking Too Fast is unlike many Czech films in that it's not a romantic comedy or black comedy or some other hybrid.
Yes, it's a thriller. We are quite strong on this because that's the disease of Czech cinema. It's always a comedy with something or a film with something. We just wanted to make a really dark film.
What does the title mean?
The Czech title is Pouta — handcuffs. It's also a play on words because it can refer to relationships, binds, ties. But there are thousands of handcuff-relationship names in foreign movies, so we wanted to avoid that. Walking Too Fast — the idea came from one of Ondřej's friends — is how Antonín [the main character] sees his life.
Antonín's obsession with Klara eventually drives him over the edge. Why is he so unbalanced?
I think he's just an unhappy guy with a lot of tension inside who doesn't have any other way to express his anger or energy. His circumstances, like being cooped up with his wife in his flat, and the communist times made small deformations in his character and this is how he ended up. Because he can't get what he wants.
Walking Too Fast does not have a political message but isn't it nonetheless an indictment of the communist system?
I think it's quite possible that the same story could be set today. But the circumstances and the time we used was a very big advantage for people like Antonín. They allow him to really manipulate the people around him and do what he wanted. Nowadays it could be possible but maybe not so easy.
Why does the film not tell the audience when or where the events are taking place?
The screenplay does begin with the title “Czechoslovakia 1982”. But then I thought it would be better not to put it there because the audience will just find out when and where it is.
Other than the costumes and props, you don't give the audience any establishing shots of Prague Castle and so on.
We were talking about this, whether it was set in Prague or not. We decided that it's better to go around this. We don't exactly say it's '82 or that it is set in Prague. It's an anonymous city in Czechoslovakia, which could be Prague, but it's made of pieces of Ostrava, Bratislava and other places.
Did you intentionally use the camera's movements to create an uneasy atmosphere?
We were talking with [DOP] Jaromír [Kačer] about how we wanted to somehow simulate this feeling that someone is being followed or someone is being watched from around the corner. We agreed that everything would be long focus and we will work a lot with the focus to give it the perspective similar to what the cops were doing at the time. But the camera movements were ideas that Jaromír came up with on the set.