i i l
Jan and Zdenek Sverak
Oscar winners for Kolya Father and son team Zdenek and
Jan Sverak — respectively, writer/star and director/producer of Oscar-winning Czech movie Kolya — are sitting in a posh hotel room in London. Jan is comfortable with the setting and business of interviews, while his father is not. Jan answers questions, Zdenek reclines on the sofa and seems somewhat at sea with it all. His limited English excuses him, but the contrast between the two men is perhaps also indicative of the way the Czech film industry is changing.
Jan, now 31, is among the first generation of Czech filmmakers who are able to — must, even — consider the tastes of Western audiences when they make their films. He is totally open about his desire to reach a wide international audience in the future with an English language film and has been billed 'the Czech Steven Spielberg’. His father, by contrast, matured as an actor and writer in the era of Communism and censorship, making his screen debut in 1968, the year the Russian tanks rolled into Prague.
The two men are evidently very close. Jan enjoys talking of his father's attitudes and achievements, as well as teasing him - ‘So you are a womaniser,’ he jokes when Zdenek admits he identifies with his character in Kolya — and Zdenek is clearly unfazed by his son's precocious success. Their professional collaboration is firmly based in Jan’s childhood, when he grew up surrounded by actors and writers.
’I would listen to the typewriter during the night, and the laughter between my father and his co-writer,’ he remembers. 'Then he bought me a small camera when I was twelve, and so I started to make short films.’ In 1991, Zdenek wrote and starred in Jan’s first feature, Elementary School, and for this they received their first Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
The Sveraks are celebrities in the Czech Republic, where Kolya has broken box office records. As we are finding in Scotland as the result of Trainspotting, a
Helena Bonham Carter Star of Margaret’s Museum
, period piece
Young head on old shoulders: Zdenek Sverak and Andrej Chalimon in Kolya
1W 1: f
single, phenomenally popular film can create a whole new energy in a national film industry. Is it possible, then, that Czech audiences will feel abandoned when Jan switches to the English language? ‘Half of it will be that they will be feeling betrayed; half of it will be a feeling of pride that this is our director and our film, because the film will be made with the support of Czech financiers,‘ he says confidently.
British-born producer Eric Abraham, who raised the money for Kolya from a host of sources across Europe, reckons that foreign language films are the Cinderellas of the film industry because they have such a small market. He and the Sveraks can smile, however, because theirs at least is one Cinderella story that ends happily ever after. (Hannah Fries)
I Glasgow Fi/rn Theatre and Edinburgh Cameo fro/n Fri 9 May See review
There are no parasols or petticoats for Helena Bonham Carter in her latest instead, in Margaret‘s ., ,1" : Museum, the Merchant-Ivory fav0urite
"It's not my tauit" I do what people offer me Hat-int; said that, l riai. e been offered other scripts which are very different from what l usually do, but I don‘t find them very good parts or
Helena Bonham Carter and Clive Russell in Margaret's Museum
24 THELIST I‘ 1‘; ’.‘.a, ”
plays a feisty outsider liying in a Cape Breton mining (OllllTlLlllllV The Canadian film was shot principally in Nova Scotia, but spent a few weeks on location in Scotland back in 1994, using the pit landscapes and old buildings of East Lothian for a genuinely gritty atmosphere.
The Scottish connectiOn goes further into the film, which is set in the heart of a remote ex-pat community The parallels with some of Scotland's working-class traditions are Oberus — in fact, in Cape Breton the Cultures of Celtic folk music and Gaelic language have probably been kept alive with more passion.
The film presented archetypal English rose Bonham Carter with a chance to break the mould that she was beginning to find herself in after films like A Room With A View and Howards End 'People say, "YOu always do the same thing," and I say,
very good scripts Thzs one ! went for '
Her character, Margaret l~.ld(N("ll has lost both her father and brother to accidents in the teal pits and is determined not to marry a miner When Neil Currie - played by 6ft 6in Scottish .ctor Cine Russell of Jute City and Rough/reeks fame - arrives in her life, the pair fall happily in love until he too is forced to take a job undergrOund
lt's neither a story nor setting that wOuId Suit Bonham Carter's trademark pre-Raphelite hairstyle, But 'all that curly whatsit was one of those Cinematic lies,' she now admits. 'People spent hours sewing it in l have straight hair and people have been Curling it But it‘s better than wearing a mg, I can tell you ' iAlan Morrisoni
I Edinburgh Filinlicjuse from Fri 2 May See review
Kim Novak Star of Vertigo
In her prime she was seen as a sex goddess to rival Marilyn Monroe but, while Kim Novak's star never shone that brightly, she can look back on a period in the 50s when her work was as good as any of her peers. Starting With the controversy of The Man With The Golden Arm and gorng on to the hot and steamy Picnic, Novak was groomed by the Hollywood machine for fame, recervrng her plum role when she was cast in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo,
‘The funny thing is that the film is about how one person is changed into someone else,’ she huskily explains on a recent trip to Britain, looking remarkably well preserved for her 64 years. ’That was something I could identify with totally because, from the outset, that's what the studio tried to do to me When I read the script I felt it was obvrously meant to be and that was why I had come to Hollywood in the first place —- so I could play this role that I identified With so strongly'
in the newly restored film, Novak is one of Hitchcock’s classic ice blondes, a woman wrth a troubled past wrth whom our hero (James Stewart) falls ll‘. love before her sudden and tragic death But, true to form for the master of suspense, this is the first of many twists in a classic story. It was also, for Novak, a unique opporturnty to see a master filmmaker at work.
'Where so many directors would tell you how to approach a character, Hitchcock had a special sense of these thrngs,’ she adds ‘He'd place obstacles in your way to create a spontaneity, to see how you'd react to something, but didn't want to see it until the camera was rolling When he asked you to do something on camera, you never needed to question it because you knew it was right I recognised straight away that he was a brilliant director because he never made you do a false move ' iAnwar Brett)
I ‘.i’erti_go is r‘e-releasetl at the Edinburgr‘i Fii'rrinouse from Fri 9 May
Ice maiden: Kim Novak in Vertigo