Interview with Jiří Strach




Interview with Jiří Strach (Director)

What is the story behind the title?
In English, the original title would literally translate something like cage or prison. A cage is an enclosed space from which there is no escape. Terrible cage beds were supposed to protect us from aggressive, mentally ill people, prisoners are sometimes thrown into cells to keep them from injuring themselves. Animals are often placed in cages before they are slaughtered. Who is setting the cage for whom, and who will finally end up inside ‐ that is what our film is about. It is about naïve trust and non‐empathetic inhumanity.

A whole array of films has been made abroad about home entrapment. Some examples are both versions of Michael Haneke's Funny Games or David Fincher’s Panic Room. Did you take any inspiration from there?
No. It can sometimes happen that one begins unconsciously imitating others. I don’t want my films to be a Xerox copy of other films, I want them to be unique, to serve the screenplay, the story and the psychology of the characters.

An intimate drama for two main characters requires a responsible choice of actors. How did you finally decide on Jiřina Bohdalová and Kryštof Hádek?
There aren’t many actresses left in the required age category. At her respectable age, Mrs Bohdalová remains in amazing shape and has more energy than many a 60‐year‐old. And Kryštof Hádek was the only possible choice for his part. But viewers will understand why after they see the film. That’s why we didn’t do any casting calls for his character. He was cast right away without the need for long consideration. Actually, I had already begun seeing him in the role during my first reading of the script.

This film signifies Jiřina Bohdalová‘s return to the genre of drama after a long hiatus. Earlier on, the two of you had worked on such fairytale movies as Angel of the Lord 2, Lucky Loser or the comedy film Wrinkles of Love. How has your relationship changed, and did you have any concerns about this collaboration?
When, as a beginning director, I first cast Mrs. Bohdalová and Jiřina Jirásková for the film Povodeň (The Flood), I was very afraid. Afraid whether I would be able to direct these two great women of Czech film and achieve the result I wanted, despite my inexperience. It quickly became apparent that Mrs. Bohdalová is absolutely wonderful and a complete professional, someone who respects the director when she sees that he knows what he wants. Ever since, we have had a great relationship, I might even say, a bit boastfully, we’re on friendly terms. I still have much to learn from her, she gives me a window into the experiences of a time before I was born.

For Jiřina Bohdalová, this was one of the most difficult films she has ever shot. Were you careful with her, and did you have to ask her permission for anything or be strict with her?
We understand each other. There’s no need for strictness or boundary-setting on either side. We have shot more than one film together, so we don’t have to share our impressions verbally that much. Sometimes a gesture or a wink is enough, and we know right away what and how we can do better. People expect a star like Jiřina to behave like a diva, but it’s just the opposite. She approaches each shot with such humility. The only scenes I wouldn’t let her shoot involved doing things where she could hurt herself. We had a stunt double do those, and each time she said, “But I really can manage that myself”, I had to uncompromisingly say no. It would seriously not be worth her cracking her head on the toilet bowl or breaking a leg falling into the bathtub.

Does your film seek to find a remedy or simply offer viewers a journey?
Is it even possible to find a remedy when the fundamental principle is inhuman and twisted from the start? Scripture says all that has happened once will happen again, there is nothing new under the sun. The only thing to do is point an issue out and, through the tragedy of a story, arouse the audience’s emotions so they do not take human, or rather, inhuman acts lightly or close their eyes to them, but stand up to them all the more emphatically if they encounter them in their own lives.

In the film, you deal with questions of faith, hope, forgiveness and atonement. Yet with each passing minute, the spiritual dimension fades. Were your favorite religious topics originally part of the screenplay, or did you add them there yourself?
They were already in Marek Epstein’s screenplay. But I don’t think they fade. They just transform into something else. Hope always leads to forgiveness, and Mrs. Galová is capable of that despite all she has encountered. The fact that it in the film it appears futile does not mean we should give it up. After all, hope is often the source of our humanity.

There are many things about the film that are merely implied. How hard was the decision‐making process before the final edit?
We spent more time in the editing room than usual this time fine-tuning visual rhythm and linking timelines. We didn’t want to be too explicit and often worked with suggestion and left certain things unsaid. But I believe in intelligent viewers. I have never underestimated their ability to read into the story and between the lines, and it has always paid off.

Courtesy of Czech Television

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