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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Czech Republic

Czech dark comedy Occupation brings Lynchian vibes to late-1960s Czechoslovakia

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- Director Michal Nohejl debuts with a chamber period drama about the Czech national character, which will compete with other first films at Tallinn Black Nights

Czech dark comedy Occupation brings Lynchian vibes to late-1960s Czechoslovakia
Occupation by Michal Nohejl

Czech director Michal Nohejl, who was formerly a student of Věra Chytilová’s, will introduce his feature-length debut, Occupation [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Michal Nohejl
film profile
]
, in the First Feature Competition of the 25th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (see the news). Nohejl cut his teeth on directing adverts and music videos, and he joined forces with Czech author of graphic novels Vojtěch Mašek (who has recently also shot his feature debut, Arved – see the news) and Czech author Marek Šindelka to pen the script. Occupation is based on an anecdote in which two men apparently found a drunken Russian soldier in a park in the late 1960s, dragged him into a basement and, wearing Nazi uniforms, convinced him that World War II was not yet over. A Russian soldier is also an uninvited guest in Nohejl’s feature debut, a chamber drama about the Czech national character.

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“Personally, I like Švejk [the protagonist of the Czech satirical novel The Good Soldier Švejk], and the story of the uninvited guest fits exactly into Švejk's mould. It shows how we Czechs work in extreme situations. When we have to fight against some form of evil, we don't charge in, gun in hand, but rather, we poke a little fun at it,” says the director. A theatre group meets in a bar after performing Report from the Gallows by Czech resistance member Julius Fucik. A drunken Russian soldier crashes the party with the pretext of selling a can of petrol to them. The Russian, sensing the awkwardness, starts to enjoy the situation and his intrusiveness. The roles of the hero and the villain shift throughout the night in Nohejl’s darkly comical chamber piece, set in the era after the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the so-called “normalisation period”.

Martin Pechlát (Bird Atlas [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Olmo Omerzu
film profile
]
) stars in the role of the theatre director, Pavel Neškudla (I, Olga Hepnarova [+see also:
film review
trailer
making of
interview: Tomáš Weinreb, Petr Kazda
film profile
]
) portrays an ambitious actor, while Aleksey Gorbunov, of Nikita Michalkov’s 12, steps into the shoes of the drunken Russian.

“The cultural centre [where the film takes place] had a wonderful atmosphere, which encouraged our use of colour filters, similar to the one in the cabaret scenes of Godard’s film,” the director says as he describes the film’s setting. Czech DoP Jan Baset Střítežský (Little Crusader [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Václav Kadrnka
film profile
]
, Alois Nebel [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
) lensed the retro-stylised period drama, which employs theatrical lighting and visual nods to David Lynch aesthetics. Julie Žáčková and Jan Hlavsa, of Czech outfit Unit&Sofa, are producing the film. “We were especially interested in the screenplay by Marek Šindelka, whom we consider to be one of the most talented Czech screenwriters,” said the producers, adding that Nohejl’s approach of shooting a stylised and visually elaborate project would make Occupation stand out from the crowd, bearing in mind the established style of Czech films.

Occupation is being produced by Czech outfit Unit&Sofa, and co-produced by PFX and Czech Television. The Czech Film Fund has supported the movie. Bontonfilm will handle the domestic theatrical release.

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