What do the former Czech President Vaclav Havel, Gulliver's Travels and a rented cat have in common? They have all appeared in or inspired the films of the script-writer and director Pavel Juracek, the subject of a retrospective at the National Film Theatre throughout February.
Juracek emerged in the 1960s Czech New Wave, alongside Milos Forman and Jan Nemec. His diaries were published posthumously in 2003, rekindling interest in his work and leading to an experimental biopic, The Key to Determining Dwarves, starring his son Marek.
"Juracek's importance to the new wave was not just in making his own films, but in writing scripts for others' films," says Peter Hames, who organised the season. Juracek wrote widely, from an adaptation of a story by Milan Kundera, No Laughing Matter, to science fiction in Voyage to the End of the Universe, to animation in The Jester's Tale. He also wrote for "Kinoautomat", the first interactive cinema system. One Man and His House centres on Mr Novak, who is faced with a series of moral dilemmas. In the first screening for 31 years, the NFT audience will be able to vote on what course of action Novak takes by pressing a button.
Juracek's own films include Every Young Man, which draws on his army experiences and features Havel in a bit part, and A Case for the Young Hangman, based on Gulliver's Travels and banned in 1969 before being released. His directorial debut, in 1963, was the Kafka-esque Josef Kilian - about a man who hires a cat for a weekend and becomes embroiled in absurd bureaucracy - which takes a side-swipe at Stalinism.
Juracek himself was no stranger to controversy. His refusal to collaborate with the Soviet regime led to his banishment from the film studios in 1971, and the country in 1977 after he signed Charter 77, the human-rights manifesto. He died in 1989, sadly just before the fall of Communism.
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