I wanted to entertain audiences

Winning an award, as you are here at Art Film Fest, is a good time to retrospect. How would you assess the years you’ve spent in cinema, which projects worked out the best, and which didn’t live up to your expectations?

These close to sixty years have been a rather grand and beautiful adventure. Some things worked out well, others less well, but altogether I am certainly satisfied. I was at my best when captivated by a screenplay, when the casting came off well, and when I saw that my collaborators and I were all pulling on the same rope. I was at my happiest working on comedies and fairytales, many of which have endured up to now and are still being screened and broadcast across a fair bit of the world. I simply wanted to entertain audiences, and I often managed to do just that.

How did comedy and fairytales end up as the genres you felt most comfortable with?

In both cases I was able to work with fantasy. Think up non-existent worlds and impart them with logic and order – without this plausibility, audiences would lose interest. The viewer has to first believe that somewhere underground lies some sort of fairy realm, and only then can they get onboard n our "story train" and be entertained by our nonsense. I have had several “train wrecks” simply because for many years we lived under powerful ideological censorship, which warily kept watch over everything, even fantasy films.

You are known for your collaboration with screenwriter Miloš Macourek. Could you describe the initial creative process behind your films together? It wasn’t the same every time. Sometimes we received a proposal a dramatist, other times we developed an idea of our own. In both cases we began to meet, debating and noting down ideas at length. When we came to an agreement, we would then devise the basic outline of the plot. After that, Miloš wrote the first version of the screenplay, and we would work on it until we were both satisfied. At the end of the year, your film Saxana – veľtrh strašidiel (Little Witch on a Broomstick) will have its premiere. Did you consider it risky to shoot a sequel to such a popular film? Of course it is risky, just like all sequels. And it won’t be called “Veľtrh strašidiel” (Monster Expo). That was just a preliminary title, which we’ve left behind. It’s not even certain that we will finish the project in autumn, because we still have a great deal of work ahead of us. 3D animation will play a significant role in the film. What was it like working with this technology? Combining live-action film with animation is truly uncanny. Imagine an actor in front of the camera with a character who isn’t actually there, despite having to converse with them and react to their behaviour. Sometimes it really seemed like we’d gone mad. To what extent has the film’s concept departed from that which you planned with Miloš Macourek in the 1990s? The story has undergone a number of adjustments, the only reason being that we decided to portray the fantastical characters through animation. To find a suitable actor for the role of a kindly three-metre-long lizard simply isn’t possible. Incidentally, the first version was called “Blackman vs. Saxana”. For the sake of today’s young filmmakers, could you reveal the recipe for great comedies such as yours, which speak to multiple generations?     There isn’t any recipe for that. Over the last twenty years, life in our countries has changed considerably, and the audience’s mentality has also changed acutely. The new generation will have to deal with this on their own. Only one thing is certain – humour has just two forms: good and tasteful, and bad, that is to say tasteless.