The film I made without Americans
by Valeria Chiari
- Winner of an Oscar in 1996 Oscar for Kolya, the Czech director presents Dark Blue World. A tale of love, war and liberty made thanks to Italy, Germany and the support of the European Film Fund
“When the American producers turned it down, I was convinced that this film would never be made. Without the generosity of Italy, German and the European Cinema Fund, Dark Blue World would never have seen the light of day.” Czech film director, Jan Sverak, the winner of the 1996 best foreign film Oscar for Kolya, was speaking at the press conference to present his latest film that was five long and hard years in the making.
“It took as long to make this film as the Second World War lasted.” The story of love and aerial battles that inspired Sverak to make this movie is based on the memoirs of a Czechoslovakian pilot, an heroic figure in an unforgettable historical context. The two protagonists, Franta and Karel, are pilots in the Czechoslovakian air force whose patriotism and love for their homeland forces them to flee Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia for Britain, where they join the RAF. So many of their brothers-in-arms paid a heavy price for this decision when they returned home after the War, only to be imprisoned by the Communist regime who feared the airmen might be tempted to fight once more for freedom, this time, at home.
“As in all my films, this one turned my life upside down. When I refused to implement the changes to this film wanted by the Americans, I found myself fighting the same battle for independence that Franta and Karel fought. They had asked me to make the film in English and cut out all the prison scenes. I may have lost their money but I hung on to my creative freedom because without those scenes, the film would have been meaningless.” Supported by producer Eric Abraham, who also produced Kolya, Sverak had to rethink all the battle scenes. “ I managed to find a couple of Spitfires that were still airworthy. I had another four built and with help from an English consultant who worked with a Czech special effects production company, we used our imagination.”
“Abraham remembered a 1969 film entitled The Battle Of Britain where millions of dollars were spent for the aerial scenes. We knew there had to be some footage left over and never used in the final film and found it in the dampest cellar you can imagine. With the help of scale models and computer graphics, we managed to recreate the aerial battles. “ The 37-year-old director won his war. “This film is something of an antidote to many American war films where History is sacrificed on the special effects alter, without the least respect for events or, most especially, for the protagonists.”
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