“Technology inspires new art, and that art inspires new technologies”
by Martin Kudláč
- Cineuropa spoke to Jiří Sádek at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival about his modern rendition of a classic poem, The Noonday Witch, as well as the emerging talents from the Czech Republic
New Czech talent Jiří Sádek has had his first feature selected in the East of the West competition at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. The atmospheric psychological horror The Noonday Witch [+see also:
interview: Jiří Sádek
film profile], inspired by the Czech ballad of the same name, hit Czech and Slovakian screens a few months ago, and Cineuropa sat down with the young director at his film’s international premiere to discuss his modern take on a Czech classic and the emergence of new talents on Czech soil.
Cineuropa: The Noonday Witch combines inspiration from Karel Jaromír Erben’s ballad with a social theme. Why this mix?
Jiří Sádek: Erben’s The Noonday Witch is still as relevant today as it was in the past. One parent works and is out of the home the whole day, while the other tries to keep the household under control for the other to have peace of mind when they come home. Dinner has to be cooked, clothes have to be washed, and children have to be bathed and in bed – which is a harder task than it may seem. I know families where the working parent became a virtual figure – a money factory. No parent could be satisfied with such a state of affairs. The stay-at-home parent, in our film the mother, Eliška, portrayed by Aňa Geislerová, definitely didn’t enter the marriage thinking that responsibility would be all theirs. That’s not a family. All this could be told using the story of any everyday Czech family, but Erben’s poem is wonderfully inspiring, witty and gives an author some freedom. One hundred The Noonday Witches could be conceived, and not a single one would be similar. We approached it in a bit of an unconventional way, which may not suit everybody, but for me, Kytice, the collection of poems featuring the ballad, is a 19th-century Harry Potter – everybody has it on their shelf.
Why did you decide to tackle the theme through horror, a not-so-common genre in Czech cinema?
Everybody laughs at different things, but they all fear the same way. But horror does seem uncommon after so many years of dramas, comedies and crime films. We used to have comedies like Václav Vorlíček’s Who Wants to Kill Jessie?, horrors by Juraj Herz or films by Jaromír Jireš. Their films are within us, but my generation was brought up on movies by foreign filmmakers like David Fincher or M Night Shyamalan. I would say that The Noonday Witch is the result of this combination.
Even while using the horror framework, you go against the usual conventions.
I found the principle of daylight horror quite logical. Monsters that are not afraid to come out in the day are worse than the ones that hide. Day is just as unavoidable as night is. The light entices curiosity, not terror. But that’s the monster luring you to torture you. And during a scorching summer heatwave, there’s nowhere to hide.
There are a number of other Czech cinema debuts happening at the moment, to the point where the critics are talking about a new generation.
I don’t know whether this is a revival of domestic production, but this year, there are plenty of fresh filmmakers hungry for genre emerging. I am happy that genre diversity is being embraced. We’re not the only ones to be supported by the State Cinematography Fund - there was also a sci-fi project, for example. Furthermore, the funding for first-time filmmakers accelerated the whole situation, without which The Noonday Witch would not have come into existence. I had the chance to shoot The Noonday Witch on 35 mm, but the high number of new filmmakers is surely the result of the availability of new cameras and editing rooms. Technology inspires new art, and that art inspires new technologies.
Despite its international potential, The Noonday Witch is a solely Czech production. Did you contemplate international co-production?
I wasn’t in charge of financing for The Noonday Witch, and that’s good. The film started out as a small “haunted house” debut. At the beginning, the project was only meant to have a budget of around €185,000. After Aňa Geislerová came on board and we decided to shoot on 35 mm, we realised that it wasn’t a small film anymore. Nevertheless, we kept a small number of locations and actors, as we had originally expected.