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PRODUCTION Czech Republic

I Served the King of England shooting set for spring

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Jiri Menzel’s much awaited screen adaptation of Bohumil Hrabal’s "I Served the King of England" (Obsluhoval jsem anglickeho krala) will begin filming in March or April this year. The film’s principal photography was originally scheduled for last autumn. Menzel, 67, is a champion of successful screen adaptations of Hrabal’s novels, having filmed five of them, including 1967 Oscar winner Closely Observed Trains (Ostre sledovane vlaky).

The film, which reflects on the rise and fall of an hotelier, is eagerly awaited in the Czech cinema circles not so much because it again brings together the Menzel-Hrabal pair but because of the entire background that accompanies it. In the last nine years a number of production companies or directors have claimed ownership of the novel’s film rights including Jan Hrebejk (Up and Down) while a few of the country’s best known screen-writers had already worked on different script versions, including Hrebejk’s script-writing partner Petr Jarchovsky. The dispute finally ended last year, when the current producers and distributors, Bioscop, won the right to the screen-adaptation but further pre-production delays meant the shooting had to be postponed from last November to the spring of 2006. In addition, the introduction of commercial channel TV NOVA as a co-producer has raised concerns among the Hrabal faithful that the film could prioritise box-office achievements instead of remaining truthful to the novel.

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Critics have also argued that Menzel might have lost a bit of his touch as he has not sat behind a camera since 1993 when he directed his last film, The Life and Adventures of Ivan Conkin (Zivot a neobycejná dobrodruzství vojáka Ivana Conkina). Served the King of England has a budget of almost 3M€, making it one of the most expensive Czech productions ever.

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