Was conductor Václav Talich a collaborator? Why do Czechs engage in theatricals with each other? Will they be a nation of warehouse keepers on the crossroads of Europe? Who resents the possibility of an effective cure for cancer? And is the Czech elite an issue for the sociologist or the criminologist? Stage director Jan Antonín Pitínský is rehearsing Smetana’s opera Dalibor at the National Theatre. Karel Vachek is also conducting his own distinctive performance of Dalibor in the auditorium involving artists, scientists, intellectuals and political activists. Buoyed along by Smetana’s music, to which Vachek ascribes a mystical force, the National Theatre, the manifestation of national aspirations and self-delusion, brings to life the stories of people who stood up to official power and legislation, because they had a moral reason to do so. The Mašín brothers, former agent Vladimír Hučín, the anarchist Jakub Polák and doctors prescribing illegal devitalisation treatment for cancer sufferers – all are descendants of the rebellious Dalibor. Artists are moral examples. The failure of the elite leads to historical tragedies. According to historian Jan Tesař, the revolution of 1989 was a piece of theatre designed for a world audience – when the performance ends, collaboration begins. Then another happening will come along and the nation will be united once more. Both levels of the production – operatic and documentary – communicate with each other throughout, as though the motifs from the opera are there to provide a commentary to Vachek’s film testimony. —Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Born in 1940. Studied direction at the Prague Film Academy (FAMU) under Elmar Klos. In 1963 he shot his thesis film, Moravian Hellas, in Strážnice, then-Czechoslovakia, about their traditional folk celebrations. The film’s unusual approach—blending humor and intellectual aggression—caused furor and indignation as well as admiration in official cultural and political circles. It took several years for it to be allowed to be screened publicly. As a director with the Krátký Film studio in Prague in 1968, Vachek shot the film Elective Affinities a legendary portrait of the protagonists of the Prague Spring during the presidential elections of that year.
He had to leave Krátký Film with the onset of the post-1968 “normalization” process, working in manual trades until emigrating with his family in 1979 to the USA via France. Due to his wife’s bad health, he eventually returned. In the 1980s he worked as a driver. After 1989 he returned to Krátký Film and, over time, completed an extensive… read more