Interview with Ondřej Vetchý - Protagonist
What was Alois Rašín for you before and after the filming?
I had a general overview and awareness of who he was, but only thanks to Jiří Svoboda did I learn a lot about the character. He was a unique man.
How did you manage to inspire yourself for this character? I assume that it is not just a physical imitation, which certainly completes the character for the audience…
Visual imitation will not help me during playing. I would have to look at myself in the mirror and say: God, I look completely different. But that had nothing to do with it. My goal is for my character to be a human being that you connect to and identify with, and you will be able to defend everything you do.
What did you have to defend?
These are rather existential questions, it would be very difficult. We need to limit ourselves to simpler things. When I tell someone that I started thinking and feeling the character's intentions, as I always do, it will be a little shocking for others. But that's just the way it is. But it is important to define who Alois Rašín was, what made him unique, how important he was for this country. That he was a man who represented what we are so terribly lacking here. That is, for example, incredible patriotism, incredible personal responsibility, which is based on great intelligence, great integrity and responsibility that Alois Rašín took on, and immense hardness, how to yourself and to the people around you.
How would you characterize him, how close he was to you?
His motto was: "When you work for your homeland, you work for free." This cannot be quantified by money. I admire him for this, and we miss it immensely today and especially in political life. People who think this way, who see politics as an absolute service to their country, do not look for their benefit and can sacrifice themselves absolutely for their homeland. He was a unique farmer who knew he could never spend more than he earned, who did everything to make Czechoslovakia a prosperous, successful, and confident country that would expand economically.
The central couple in the film is Rašín and the first Prime Minister Karel Kramář. What was their main controversy?
The story also shows that they both had different social backgrounds. Their biggest controversy burned in Kramář's pro-Russian orientation, which was in direct conflict with how Rašín perceived the world. He saw Russia as a backward country. The difference between them was also in the overall approach to life and work. Rašín was a hard worker and Kramář loved and enjoyed his position and the respect he enjoyed. Formally, therefore, there was a contradiction between Rašín's ascetic approach and Kramář's prosperous approach. I also think that Kramář perceived things more from the outside, while Rašín had them completely internalized.
While Kramář was a "trained" politician, Rašín was again considered a rioter from university. Didn't this radicality determine his political life as well?
He sacrificed himself for this country. He has proved exactly that politics can good and bad, and that depends on the people who run it. Rašín breaks down the simplistic interpretation that all politicians steal or lie because his need to serve this country and the people in it was absolutely obvious. He knew it, even at the cost of being hated. He did everything for a long time so that the republic would work, be strong, be independent, be free and independent. He took on this burden and was willing to bear the consequences of his actions.
The series also shows how strongly his wife Karla supported him…
He had a stronghold in the family. He had a wife behind him, as probably all men want a woman to stand behind them. Karla supported him, she was his love, his partner, his friend, his most loyal friend, his companion, she fought for him. For him, the family was the center of the world, and it was what gave him tremendous strength so he could give something like that to all families throughout Czechoslovakia.
What do you think is the message of the series?
Putting this series into a historical context is not that difficult, the story itself has the greatest telling value. But I think it is a series celebrating not only Rašín but also Kramář and other men.
His life was cut short with his murder. Do you think things would have been different if he had survived?
I think that if he lived in a time of peace, in a stable time, it could be difficult for someone with his criticism, vehemence and radicalism. I think that if he survived, he would be cleaned up somewhere in the interwar period, he would probably have a post that would correspond to his possibilities. But if war broke out, Rasin would reappear and become one of the leading men again.
How did you feel working with director Jiří Svoboda?
George is an educated man, has an excellent brain, and is a great filmmaker. Of course, when you work with such a person, cooperation is difficult. But you know that you have a lot of support from him.
When Jiří Svoboda offered you the role, did you accept right away?
No, it didn't even work. We had to meet with Mr. Svoboda and he was kind and took his time. We talked for three hours in the Slavia café - we had a few coffees and tram races, and I already knew that we had probably already agreed. Our agreement had its history - not only the project itself but also its cast.
What do you think the current awareness of this important historical figure is?
In my opinion, most of the public has no information about it or only some basics. Many people, for example, consider him the master who built Rašín's embankment. It's a pity because if we were aware of these exceptional men, like Alois Rašín, it would also help to make us a little different than we are. We might be more confident, probably more interested in the things around us. Rašín represented the exact opposite of what narrows today's society. For example, Czechs often believe in some conspiracy theories, but when confronted with reality, they either do not believe it, or they do not want to believe it, or they find it strange. Rašín was able to define everything precisely and gave no room for a different interpretation.
So, what should we take from his character?
Self-confidence, diligence, personal responsibility - these are all values that represent a confident citizen in a confident state. This is how Alois Rašín presented it. After the war, the Nazis deprived us of a huge number of patriots. In the 1950s, their work was completed by the Communists, and many unique families fled because of them or were destroyed, erased from history. We have lost many such families who left this country either around 1948 or 1968.
*Courtesy of Czech Television
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