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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Czech Republic

Slávek Horák’s Havel is in the editing room

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- The biopic, a dramedy about the celebrated Czech playwright and statesman Václav Havel, is nearing the finishing line

Slávek Horák’s Havel is in the editing room
Viktor Dvořák as Václav Havel in Havel (© Slávek Horák)

Award-winning Czech advert director Slávek Horák made the transition to a career in fiction filmmaking with his first feature-length offering, Home Care [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Slávek Horák
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]
, which he co-wrote and produced. This outing, which was the Czech hopeful for the 2016 Academy Awards, brought him into the spotlight as a talent to watch. Now, his sophomore feature, about former president Václav Havel and simply entitled Havel, is also generating lofty expectations.

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As Horák told Cineuropa, there are several documentaries about the former Czech president, yet his life has not yet been tackled as a fiction film. While the main structure is based on the official biography and memories of Havel’s peers, Horák wanted to explore his rise to the position of leader of the Velvet Revolution from a lesser-known perspective, thus plugging the gaps in the official biography through creative licence.

The writer-director calls the film a “bio-dramedy”, a story based on true events, and focused on the protagonist and his transformation from a careless bohemian into the nation’s leader. The film maps 20 years in the life of the leading character during three periods: Havel as a banned playwright in the late 1960s, as a human-rights activist in the 1970s, and as a president in the late 1980s. The dramatisation of his life won’t be lacking in absurd humour, as Horák explains: “We want to reflect the outsider’s position when facing an oppressive government. And with quite an original love story, too.”

The director is matching each of the three periods to a different style: the 1960s to the black and white of Czech New Wave films, the 1970s to the style of normalisation films, and the 1980s to authentic, documentary-like grainy footage. The stylisation will be done in post-production, which will enable a fine adjustment of the dramatic effect, as Horák points out. The film will portray the celebrated statesman as a flawed human being, scrutinising Havel’s reactions in conflicting situations, his hesitations, decisions, fears and insecurities that all forged his personality. It will thus explore the inner drama, thoughts and motives of a man who would go on to become a symbol of democracy in Eastern Europe.

The film is currently in the editing room and will be until the end of the year. This will be followed by sound and visual post-production in order to have the movie ready by April 2020. However, Horák also said that a rough cut is already ready. The leading role was entrusted to stage actor Viktor Dvořák, who has already portrayed the former president in an episodic role in Irena Pavlásková’s The Prague Orgy [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, based on the Philip Roth novel. Anna Geislerová stars as Havel’s first wife, Olga.

Havel is being produced by Slávek Horák’s company, Tvorba Films, and co-produced by Czech Television. The Czech Film Fund supported the production with €557,692, and the film also received a MEDIA development grant. The domestic theatrical release is scheduled for July 2020, courtesy of Bontonfilm. Havel does not yet have a sales agent attached, but it was presented as a work in progress at the most recent Les Arcs Film Festival.

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