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PRODUCTION Czech Republic

Robert Sedláček tells the life story of Czech martyr Jan Palach (take two)


- The story of Jan Palach is receiving its second big-screen treatment, this time homing in on the last few months in the Czech martyr’s life

Robert Sedláček tells the life story of Czech martyr Jan Palach (take two)
Viktor Zavadil as Jan Palach (© Cineart TV Prague)

The story of the most famous Czech martyr, Jan Palach, is getting another big-screen treatment. After the wildly successful HBO miniseries Burning Bush [+see also:
film profile
by Agnieszka Holland, which was ultimately recut for a theatrical release , Robert Sedláček (Long Live the Family) has now been tasked with directing the eponymous biopic. Whereas Holland followed the fallout in the wake of the martyr’s self-immolation, Sedláček observes the last few months leading up to the young man’s desperate act of protest against the Soviet invasion of 1968. “I want to tell the tragic story of Jan Palach, a story that is not a childishly naive fight against totalitarianism, but rather an extreme example of where ubiquitous conformity and adaptability driven to breaking point can lead a sensitive individual,” says the director as he reveals his reasons for re-telling the story, which was penned by Eva Kantůrková, a spokesperson for Charter 77 in the 1980s, and a writer.

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“That morning, Jan Palach spoke to his mother, ate a snack he took from her, made jokes with a roommate in a dormitory and took a shower before heading to town. The camera watches Jan’s face during the whole film and attempts to capture the moments when he makes decisions that those who lived with Jan in 1968 did not notice – or maybe they did notice them, but they could not have imagined what they meant for him or what act they would lead to,” according to the film’s synopsis, which suggests the style that Robert Sedláček, a documentarian-turned-fiction filmmaker, will adhere to. Young stage actor Viktor Zavadil will portray the protagonist, while seasoned actress Zuzana Bydžovská takes on the role of his mother. Shooting began in August in Prague and is due to continue throughout November and December. The art department is hard at work recreating the sets from 1968, including the actual invasion.

The biopic Jan Palach [+see also:
film review
film profile
 is being produced by Cineart TV Prague, and co-produced by public broadcaster Czech Television, Up&Up Production, Slovakian company ARINA and Slovak public broadcaster Radio and Television Slovakia. It has an estimated budget of €1.74 million. The domestic release is scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, on 21 August 2018.

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