Václav Havel’s film debut “Leaving”

March 24, 2011

World-renowned playwright and politician Václav Havel assumed the role of film director for the first time in order to bring Leaving, one of the most keenly awaited plays to hit the Czech stage in recent years, to the screens. Michaela and Zdenek Bakala supported development of the movie as its co-producers.

Leaving is about the leader of an unspecified country who steps down after many years in power, but Havel insists it's not autobiographical. He began writing the play in the 1988, a year before the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia. He says he was first motivated to describe the situation of intellectuals fired from prominent jobs after the Soviet Union put down the Prague Spring in 1968.

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Except for a few scenes, the entire film is set in the garden of a large government villa, the residence of the main hero, the politician Rieger. He is a dapper, elderly man, who held the office of Chancellor for many years, but has recently been ousted and is apparently unable to come to terms with the fact. Although he tries to hide it, his world has collapsed. He is obliged to move out of the government villa and undergo the humiliating process of separating government-issue property from his own private things.

“The protagonist can’t handle change well, he stops functioning and his whole world collapses around him,” Havel said in an interview. “He responds in the worst way possible, adapting to a subordinate position that serves the new state of affairs.”

The movie is not only about an end of one politician’s career, it also reflects on the phenomena of a change in general: every second something new comes and something old irretrievably leaves and we haven’t got the slightest idea where it comes from nor where it goes. It is a classical drama theme of an end – end of a man, end of an era, end of a love.

Read more in an interview with Václav Havel for Variety: Havel draws on life for film debut: Poet, politicial, playwright took his "Leaving" to bigscreen.

See a trailer of "Leaving".

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