The Czech production company Film&Sociology was so kind to send me a vimeo link so I could watch Janek’s film on Olga Havlova, which I had read about passionately because of ”Citizen Havel”, where she is very much present with her husband Vaclav, a film shot by Pavel Koutecky and put together by Miroslav Janek. 160.000 saw the film in Czech cinemas.
The film about Olga lives totally up to what I had expected. It is lively, entertaining, has wonderful archive material (Olga died in 1996) and gives the atmosphere of a period, where she like her husband, who was in prison several times, was under constant surveillance by the secret police. And later on was ”equipped” with bodyguards to accompany her as ”the first Lady” of the country. The bodyguards talk in the film as do several members of the group of dissidents – about the jolly underground meetings and parties they had, often initiated by Olga, who is praised – just one out of many words and sentences – for her subtle humour. And about Charter 77, the samizdat activity, the Movement for Civic Freedom. The way the surveillance reports are conveyed gives the film this typical absurdity you often find in Czech cinema
It’s history and it’s a film about a woman with an extraordinary charisma. She did not like (her husband says so) the pomposity of being ”the first lady”, she loved the theatre, she was an usher, she was Havel’s first dramaturg and the one, who often had to ”bring him down to earth”.
Many words are taken from her memoirs and Janek found a woman, who knew Olga, and had the kind of voice she had to read pages about her upbringing in communist Czechoslovakia. Editor Tonicka Jankova and director Miroslav Janek have done a great work to make this archive film fresh to watch. The montage is brilliant. Janek has said that he – in ”Citizen Havel” – could feel ”her persona”. Director and editor has succeeded to offer the audience the same. You never get really close to Olga, she wanted to keep her integrity and dignity, the filmmakers respect that dignity, her unsentimentality and humour – it is a film full of admiration for the protagonist, playful, informative, what more could you ask for?
Czech Republic, 2014, 87 mins.