In 1968, acclaimed playwright Václav Havel was enjoying his newfound success and freedom under Alexander Dubček’s "socialism with a human face". However, his freedom was short-lived.
In Slávek Horák's latest film, Havel and many of his friends and colleagues are followed, harassed, censored and imprisoned over the course of 20 years, during which many notable events occurred, including the creation of Charter 77, Havel’s imprisonment and later confession (which haunted him for the rest of his life), the establishment of the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Prosecuted, and the 1989 presidential election.
Whilst the film draws strong parallels between Havel’s experiences at the hands of the authorities and how this immediately impacted his art, much of the focus is on how the women in Havel’s life – from his wife Olga (a quiet yet powerful performance by Anna Geislerová [The Noonday Witch, CaSFFA 2015]) to his many affairs – shaped him.
For those who watched the documentary Citizen Havel/Obcan Havel (CaSFFA in collaboration with Melbourne Cinémathèque in 2019) – Horák’s dramatised biopic presents a true enough depiction of the man (with some liberties taken with the events) and features strong writing, cinematography, and performances from its entire cast.
Presented by CaSFFA, ACMI, the Embassies of the Czech and Slovak Republics in Canberra and the State Government of Victoria.