Havel Speaking, Can You Hear Me?

What were the two last years in the life of former dissident, ex-president Václav Havel like? How did he reflect on the fact that he was gradually leaving this world? Documentarian Petr Jančárek talks about his upcoming documentary film capturing the final stretch of Havel’s, life, the rough cut of which was shown at the Ji.hlava IDFF in the Studio 89 section marking this year’s anniversary of the so-called Velvet Revolution.

From the upcoming film Havel Speaking, Can You Hear Me?

Václav Havel was and certainly will remain one of the most prominent figures of Czech history of European and even global dimensions. Being a director of his own life, his fascinating story is full of paradoxes, absurdity as well as twists and turns, often caused by the fact that he stubbornly insisted on keeping his actions in line with his consciousness and putting the common good above his own. 

Who would not want to make a documentary about such a character? It was my great honour when in April 2009, Václav Havel asked me in his Prague offices whether – as he himself put it – I “wouldn’t want to record the rest of his life”. I could give only one answer to his question, although I had no idea what his proposal would entail. Havel’s co-worker Martin Vidlák wrote: “Director Petr Jančárek started to work with President Havel in 2003. He regularly recorded Václav Havel’s video greetings and speeches for Czech and international meetings and events which the ex-president could not attend in person. In 2006, we collaborated on TV trilogy Václav Havel, Prague – Castle about president’s federal days and three years later, Václav Havel suggested further collaboration with Petr Jančárek. He was absolutely open to Petr and trusted his directing and cinematography skills. Petr, on the other hand, took utmost responsibility for the collected footage, limited the number of crew to minimum, and his collaboration with the ex-president’s office and security was smooth as well as his unobtrusive presence at the recorded events.”
 

From the upcoming film Havel Speaking, Can You Hear Me?
 

Havel through new lens

It was not so easy to turn down all new offers and dedicate my time to Václav Havel, financing the shooting initially from my own sources and combining the work with other projects in progress… My friends fortunately helped with the funding – the co-owner of rights to the footage is the Michael Kocáb Foundation. 

Havel’s extraordinary life has inspired numerous books, historical studies and documentary films. However, I am convinced that his footprint on the Czech and international scene is so unique that there is still space for many more different renditions of his life and fate. However, me and my colleagues – co-author of the script Martin Palouš and editor Jan Turek – have to find a completely new lens to look at the dramatist, dissident, politician and statesman.

"We have approximately two hundred hours of very rare footage to process, containing so far unreleased scenes from Czech and international public occasions which Václav Havel attended, his meetings with prominent figures and with entirely unknown people..."

We have approximately two hundred hours of very rare footage to process, containing so far unreleased scenes from Czech and international public occasions which Václav Havel attended, his meetings with prominent figures and with entirely unknown people. The footage captures his presidential schedule as well as his private life.

Our protagonist is able to stay on top of things and be aware of the general implications, at the same time being capable of formulating a brilliant analysis of reality. In addition to his appearances on camera and comments for microphones, he also produced his own dramatic pieces, essays and presidential speeches. Apart from our time-lapse footage, we use these works as additional sources to describe Havel's figure. 

Director of his own life

I have personally always been fascinated by the fact that Václav Havel was a dramatist not only in the standard sense of the word. He was constantly sketching and staging each movement around, in his essence acting like a director from the very beginning of his creative existence, long before he started shooting his own film, Leaving.
 

From the upcoming film Havel Speaking, Can You Hear Me?
 

Another quite substantial and characteristic feature of our protagonist was that there was practically no difference between Havel as a private person and Havel as a public figure. The fact that these two were identical was an obvious expression of his spontaneity as well as his profound responsibility and ingrained need of self-control. I guess that he was actually constantly struggling with his own doubts and weaknesses, which I often experienced in his company. But he always managed to immediately find his way out of these struggles – as a dissident, prisoner, politician or free citizen – being able to take a clear stance and make the right decision. This might also be the key to Václav Havel as a protagonist in front of the camera where he appeared more often and more willingly than anyone else. On top of that, he was always inspiring, witty, playful and I am sure that he never did it for the show. 

We are now in the post-production stage, repeatedly watching the whole footage and discovering previously overlooked treasures and additional material for situations we are already working on. The entire process is absolutely fascinating. But there is always the ruthless reminder of the most obvious fact – that we have a raw diamond in our hands that we mustn’t destroy during the grinding. To leverage and process the footage collected in the last three years of Václav Havel’s life as best as we can is the fundamental prerequisite for the film’s success.
 

Translated by Viktor Heumann





more articles from a section:  New release

dok.revueVěci mohou být i jinakJak se natáčel vnitřní portrét Jaroslava Duška s názvem Zrcadlení tmy?
dok.revueKrajina poslů smrti i taškářůDokumentaristka Květa Přibylová přibližuje práci na svém experimentálním snímku Země havrana z archy, který vybrali organizátoři nyonské přehlídky Visions du Réel do své online mediatéky, jež je pro filmové profesionály přístupná do 2. května na webu festivalu.
dok.revueM E Z E R Y PAMĚTINora Štrbová přibližuje svůj nový animovaný dokument M E Z E R Y (S P A C E S), ve kterém zpracovává osobní zkušenost se ztrátou paměti svého bratra. Snímek do 24. dubna uvádí online letošní ročník festivalu Visions du Réel.
dok.revueStopy Jedličkovy krajinyDokumentarista Petr Záruba přibližuje svůj nový film Jan Jedlička: Stopy krajiny o malíři Janu Jedličkovi. Snímek bude uveden na letošním ročníku festivalu Visions du Réel.
dok.revueKlavír je příliš těžkýEliška Cílková přibližuje svůj nový dokument Pripjať Piano, v němž pátrala po opuštěných klavírech i vzpomínkách v uzavřené zóně dávné černobylské tragédie. Snímek je od 17. do 24. dubna k vidění online v rámci letošního ročníku festivalu Visions du Réel.
dok.revueVlci jako hrozba, nebo přirozenost?Dokumentarista Martin Páv představuje svůj nový film Vlci na hranicích o vztahu lidí na Broumovsku k vlkům, vracejícím se na toto území. Film klade zásadní otázky o vztahu člověka a přírody – do jaké míry máme potřebu mít život pod kontrolou a do jaké míry jsme ochotni zahrnout do svých životů nepředvídatelnost ve světě, který nepatří jenom nám? Snímek bude 1. května k vidění online v rámci letošního ročníku festivalu Visions du Réel, a to v sekci Grand Angle.
dok.revueJak nemluvit jazykem apokalypsy?Dokumentaristka a publicistka Apolena Rychlíková přibližuje svůj dokument Češi jsou výborní houbaři, jehož název odkazuje na známou báseň Milana Kozelky. Nový film Apoleny Rychlíkové bude součástí šesté série Českého žurnálu a jeho premiéra proběhne na festivalu Jeden svět.
dok.revueJak jsem potkala losyHana Nováková o losech, lidech a filmech, co potřebují čas. Amoosed.
dok.revuePsí láskaRežisérku Lindu Kallistovou Jablonskou vždy zajímali lidé, kteří jdou za hranice svých možností. Oslovila ji proto životní cesta české musherky Jany Henychové, která nejraději tráví čas o samotě za polárním kruhem, jen se psím spřežením. Dokument Psí láska, který má premiéru na letošním festivalu Jeden svět, může být podle režisérky inspirací pro ty, kteří se bojí žít svůj sen. Pro dok.revue přibližuje vznik svého nového dokumentu.
dok.revueAlchymická pecNa Mezinárodním filmovém festivalu v Rotterdamu, který začíná už 22. ledna, bude představeno i několik českých dokumentů. V sekci The Tyger Burns pro stále zářící generaci zkušených filmařů se objeví Komunismus a síť aneb Konec zastupitelské demokracie Karla Vachka. V sekci Deep Focus se představí koprodukční snímek Efekt Vašulka o islandsko-české dvojici manželů Vašulkových a dokument Jana Daňhela a Adama Oľhy Alchymická pec, který bude mít v Rotterdamu světovou premiéru. Alchymická pec se soustředí na tvorbu Jana Švankmajera, speciálně na jeho poslední film Hmyz, který měl v Rotterdamu premiéru před dvěma lety. Režiséři Jan Daňhel a Adam Oľha sepsali pro dok.revue svou režijní explikaci k filmu.

starší články

1+2.19DOK.REVUE
17. 12. 2019


from current issue:

New releaseOn Adultery as Mirror of Our Own SelvesBarbora Jíchová Tyson, a visual artist, who has been living in America for seventeen years, has finished her first feature film Talking About Adultery this year. According to the author, the film is an essayistic collage and represents a perspective on humanity, which holds the mirror up to us all.Barbora Jíchová TysonNew releaseFREMWhat is it like to shoot a film in Antarctica? Is it possible to get into the head of artificial intelligence? And what is GAI? All this is described by the documentarist Viera Čákanyová in the text she wrote about her new film FREM in dok.revue.Viera ČákanyováThemeEmerging Czech female documentariansIs there a new tide of emerging female documentarians in Czech cinema? What’s fascinating about the work of Czech female filmmakers like Johana Ožvold, Greta Stocklassa or Viera Čákany?Will TizardSportHow to Teach Documentary FilmmakingThis year’s Ji.hlava IDFF offered a panel discussion on how documentary filmmaking is taught in Visegrad countries. Methods used to teach documentary filmmaking in different V4 countries were discussed by lecturers from selected schools. Vít Janeček introduced documentary courses at Prague’s FAMU, Attila Kékesi represented Hungarian University of Theatre and Film Arts in Budapest, Viera Čákanyová talked about study programmes at Slovak Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava – VSMU, and Maria Zmarz-Koczanowicz discussed documentary education at National Film School in Lodz. What emerged from their fruitful discussion? Vít Janeček, Kamila Boháčková, Maria Zmarz-Koczanowicz, Attila Kékesi, Peter KerekesPoemThe reanimation of Mr. PuiuKhavn De La CruzReviewA Place to Take a BreathThe film journalist Janis Prášil compares two documentary portraits of this year – Forman vs. Forman and Jiří Suchý: Tackling Life with Ease on his blog.Janis PrášilReview Music as a Lag Between Death and InfinityJanis Prášil ruminates on Solo – this year´s winner of Ji.hlava Czech Joy section – which comes to cinemas. Did the picture succeed in depicting the inner world, so hard to portray, of a mentally ill musician? And what if it is the illness itself which enables people to take a look into the grievous core of being?Janis PrášilReviewOn Sounds by ImageThe film journalist Antonín Tesař writes about the new film The Sound Is Innocent directed by Johana Ožvold.Antonín TesařInterviewGreta Stoklassa: I Read Rather than Preach the RealityAn interview with the director Greta StoklassaKamila BoháčkováInterviewTo Surprise MyselfWhile the main competition at the International Karlovy Vary Film Festival does not feature any Czech title, the festival’s documentary section has one Czech film to offer: A documentary road movie by Martin Mareček entitled Over the Hills exploring the relationship between a father and a son, as well as the distance that separates us from others. Unlike his previous socially engaged films, the latest title provides a personal and intimate insight. But as Martin Mareček put it in his interview for dok.revue – what is intimate is universal. Marek Hovorka, Petr Kubica, Kamila BoháčkováInterviewKarel Vachek: Films Just Have to Make You Laugh!One of the most original Czech filmmakers Karel Vachek made his ninth film novel called Communism and the Net or the End of Representative Democracy. Fifty years after Prague Spring and thirty years after the Velvet Revolution, Karel Vachek “with his inner laughter” looks back on the evolution of our society and predicts a transformation to direct democracy based on the possibilities of the internet that will allow for the engagement of the whole mankind without the need of representatives. His film Communism will be screened at the beginning of next year at the International Film festival Rotterdam.Kamila BoháčkováIntroductionCzech docs of the year 2019Welcome at the English double issue of dok.revue 2019. This winter issue looks back upon the Czech documentary scene in the year 2019 and serves as an annual book of the most (internationally) interesting Czech documentaries and articles about them at dok.revue.Kamila Boháčkovávideo dok.revueMasterclass: Sergej Dvorcevoj23rd Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival