Art Film Fest to end with “Leaving”

When Václav Havel introduced his cinematic debut as a director in March, Czech audiences were divided, more in their opinion of the former president himself than in their reception of the film. Today at 8:30 pm in Trenčianske Teplice’s Prameň Jojcinema, Art Film Fest presents “Leaving” in its exclusive Slovak premiere. “In a certain sense, a play is a work in progress. The author offers it up to theatres, and they work with it in their own way,” explains dramatist-turned-politician Václav Havel. “After decades of seeing this done to my own plays, I developed an urge to finally interpret one myself, most of all as a film, which I see as a guarantee of satisfaction. Originally, in fact my whole life, I wanted most of all to be a filmmaker,” says the director, explaining his decision to shoot his first film. “Leaving”, an adaptation of Havel’s internationally performed play, is seen by some as the former president’s take on his own departure from public office eight years ago. Indeed, the tragicomedy does focus on a high-ranking politician who cannot come to terms with leaving his post as chancellor. Czech critics objected to the film’s powerful theatrical language and poetics, claiming they seemed out of place onscreen, while others commended Havel’s courage for the same reasons, pointing out that audience’s tastes are distorted by mainstream productions, making them less receptive to experiments. Truth be told, “Leaving” is far from easy to watch – but would we ever expect otherwise from Havel? – unmistakably reminiscent of a theatre performance and full of symbols that force the viewer to stop and think. But the palpable absurdity, at times approaching farce, instilled in every scene is sure to elicit giggles all the while. “Everyone is witty at times, touching or even ridiculous at others. That’s life, and that’s how I’d like to play this part. Without all these various facets, it would be mere caricature,” said Josef Abrhám, who stars as Dr Vilém Rieger. “Leaving” will open at mainstream Slovak cinemas next Thursday. Juraj Fellegi