Tomáš Hubáček • Director
“We want to literally drag the viewer into the landscape”
- Emerging Czech director Tomáš Hubáček talks about his fiction feature in development, Wirbel, and his attempt to make a Czech mystery movie for a broader European audience
Tomáš Hubáček is a Czech writer, director, musician and lecturer. He has directed music videos, two documentary films and several shorts, and he introduced his fiction feature debut, Wirbel, currently in development, at the latest edition of Czech Film Springboard (see the report). Cineuropa met up with the director at Finále Plzeň and discussed his vision of the project.
Cineuropa: Besides cinema, you are active in the world of music. How does it influence your work?
Tomáš Hubáček: I believe music is the best medium for the transfer of emotions. It constitutes 50% of the atmosphere in a film, and by changing the music, you can change the whole genre. I consider it a great advantage to be able to compose my own music.
Several emerging filmmakers are preparing their feature debuts, which revolve around the topic of Sudetenland. Is it a generational affair?
That seems to be the case. The topic of the post-war expulsion of Sudeten Germans is generally widely known, but in certain cases, it is still taboo. It must have been hard for Czech people to live in de facto stolen houses, and surely the fear of changing political relations must have played a role in Germans demanding their properties be returned. The last remaining witnesses are dying, and today’s generation has the necessary distance and freedom to speak about it. Our project Wirbel does not examine the history of Sudetenland directly; our topic is the relationship between man and country, and his ability to accept it as his home. The region of Sudetenland is interesting for us because of the uprootedness of its current inhabitants, not because of the topic of Czech-German relations.
Why did you opt for the mystery genre?
Mystery is my own personal passion from my childhood. I always considered the Czech and Sudeten countryside a brilliant backdrop for an eerie story, and since there are next to no Sudeten mystery films, I have to take care of it myself. Genre film is pretty fringe in Czech cinema. It is clear that there is a demand for mystery in the Czech Republic, but telling the film’s story – where protagonist meets secrecy – in a way that a sceptical Czech viewer will accept it is a challenge. However, we do not want to cater only to Czech tastes; Wirbel is aimed at a wider European audience.
What is your directorial vision for Wirbel?
The essence of high-quality European mystery is restraint: we feel the secret every step of the way, but we cannot see it. Some good references can be found in Scandinavian films, for example. I want to narrate the story with a free pace and leave room for the atmosphere.
What do you think will appeal to foreign viewers?
I think that in the case of Wirbel, searching for one’s roots and one’s relationship with one’s home country in a contemporary, “uprooted” age is a very topical theme. The main character, a 35-year-old city guy, is searching for his identity by escaping to the border region, as the “fluid” capital city cannot provide it. The trope of “escaping from the city” is definitely not original, but it resonates with the current ageing generation of city singles, and it is internationally understandable. In contrast to other “Sudeten” films, we are looking at Sudetenland through the eyes of an unfamiliar contemporary. It is crucial for the future of Sudetenland to find a new perspective.
Will Wirbel be a combination of genre and experimental film, given that you say that the music will shape the film as an “atmospheric audiovisual composition”?
We are carefully looking for the right balance. We want to depict the countryside in a unique and suggestive form. We want to literally drag the viewer into the landscape, in much the same way as it happens to the protagonist. We are searching for a specific form of “landscape mystery”. However, we do not want to slip into an experimental film for “ten viewers”. First of all, Wirbel is built upon a suspenseful mystery story, which the “experimental” approach has to serve. We want to make a genre film where the philosophical and the artistic overlap, and not an experimental movie masquerading as a genre flick.
How did environmental philosophy influence the story?
The story of Wirbel makes use of the idea that a spiritual relationship with the landscape is necessary if man is to have a responsibility to it that extends past his lifetime.
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