Oscar-winning Czech film director and screenwriter Jan Svěrák spoke about the craft of filmmaking and the Czech film industry at the EHU Public Conversation on Choices That Matter. “I choose topics that need to be discussed,” said Svěrák to an audience of more than 60 guests at Novotel Vilnius Centre.
“It takes three to four years to make a film. To be able to finish it with enthusiasm you have to feel personally involved. Filmmaking is a journey, it leads to answers. This journey is interesting to me and, I hope, to others, too,” said Svěrák when asked how he chooses the topics for his films.
In Svěrák’s opinion, a good movie must address serious issues but still be entertaining.
“There are American blockbuster films that are easily understandable and contain 'show' elements, and there are intellectual art-house films: very slow, depressing movies which almost no one wants to see. I think the right movie is in the middle. You should deal with serious subjects, not just amuse, but use language that is understandable.”
Svěrák says he decided he wanted to be a film director at the age of ten when his father took him to see Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.
“There was a moment in the movie where a fisherman is in the sea and a shark suddenly jumps out of the water. The people in the cinema jumped back as one and the wooden chairs made this noise. Then I thought that this one film has the power to affect so many people.”
To him, seeing a movie at the cinema is a much more valuable experience than watching it at home:
“I like the social community aspect. This is why we go to the cinema. We want to feel we are part of the same tribe, all laughing and worrying at the same moments. This gives us comfort that we are normal and that we are one group.”
When asked how he ensures the film making is running smoothly, Svěrák compared the process to dancing: “You know the steps but they play different music and you have to adjust. [Success] depends on how skilled your team members are and how accustomed they are to working together.”
Although, according to Svěrák, the line between Western and Eastern European cinema has blurred, the general problem with the European film industry is distribution.
“A good and successful European film reaches other European countries through American distribution. We don’t have the courage ourselves.”
Finally, when asked why most of the characters in his films are men, Svěrák admitted he would like to create a strong woman's character but that he understands men better. “I appreciate women and I am making films for you. If I could understand the female insights I would love to make a film about you, but unfortunately I can just tell a story from my perspective.”
EHU Public Conversation with Jan Svěrák was moderated by EHU Vice-Rector for Development and Communications Darius Udrys. The event was supported by the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Lithuania. EHU Public Conversations are sponsored by Novotel Vilnius Centre.