Shadow Play movie theme is based on your personal experience. Can you tell me what happened?
bearded man: The experience was tragic. My first wife was the victim of a double murder. After about ten years, the thought came to me that I would like to tell not this particular story, but the questions and the great contradictions that emerged in me.
The fact is that in the pursuit of justice, there is a big difference in how the victim is perceived by the victim and as an institution. I wanted to investigate what happens when you get into a conflict. The world has definite rules of justice, but the inner attitude of the individual may be completely different. I had no idea how to do it, so I just said it at home.
Bradacova: Whoever actually murdered committed suicide in custody, and Honza thought that if he didn’t, he might meet him in a few years. It was another moment of departure.
The plot is more terrifying than what happened in the movie. Why didn’t you want to be specific?
bearded man: It would be possible to tell the story of Věrka and his bosses Alenka, but it would be a different film. We didn’t want to document what happened, the story of the film is a pure invention, and the character of Jan has nothing to do with me. I wanted to accept the fact that there is no absolute justice and that we will always leave certain life situations feeling indebted.
When the investor Mareš called me eight weeks after the attacker’s arrest, he told me that I had been very lucky. I didn’t understand it at the time, but over time I realized how awful the idea was of meeting my wife’s killer after eighteen years, for example. From a legal point of view, it’s fine, because the man has served his sentence and it’s over. But it is certainly not the same for the bereaved.
And so you started writing the script…
Bradacova: Originally no, we approached other screenwriters. Even though I was with the project from the start, I held back because, although I was a director and documentary filmmaker, I had never written a screenplay for a feature film. Also, it felt a bit kitsch to me to write a screenplay based on my own husband. But if for many reasons it didn’t work out with both writers, we agreed to try and hopefully make it.
We had about six versions, and before the last one, playwright Petr Zelenka told me to put it off, let it mature and come back to it in time. I was quite upset, it was six years ago, just before our daughter was born, and I wanted to think about completely different things. But in the end, it turned out exactly as he advised us. Our main goal was to make the story fictional, but believable. And I think that only happened after that break.
Director Peter Bebjak was your first and clear choice?
bearded man: We flirted with other names, but only approached Peter when I was convinced that I was already behind the script from a production point of view. At that time, in 2017, he was awarded the Karlovy Vary Prize for directing the film Čára. Moreover,VENDLKA has admired him since his debut Apricot Island. I called him, we met and in the spring of 2018 we cheered. But covid-19 has changed everything, so the premiere is only now.
Who played a decisive role in the casting?
bearded man: The whole film, including the casting, is the result of a maximum of collective work. Vladimír Javorský as an investigator and Hynek Čermák as a friend of the main character Michal, we had in our sights from the start. Vladimir had no idea, Hynek yes, because we’ve known each other for a long time.
Bradacova: I dreamed of Vladimir from the beginning. But we offered him the part in the final version and I was happy that he accepted it. Maja Hamplová, our casting director, did a tremendous job casting other roles.
The Slovak actor Milan Ondrík, who plays the main role, is not yet very well known in the Czech Republic, although we have seen him, for example, in Bourák or on television Maria Theresa. Why did you choose it?
Bradac: The Karlovy Vary festival is also responsible for Milan, as we were literally captivated by his performance in the award-winning film Be the Light. We invited him to a casting among the last nine actors. He and a Czech actor reached the final, and then a rather long discussion began. For me as a producer, the Czech actor seemed more advantageous, while Peter claimed that Milan was more accurate for the role of Jan. That’s how we talked, how we discussed, and in the end I admitted that the director was right, as the law says. I am absolutely delighted that Milan is playing this role.
Bradacova: Milan is an intuitive actor, I’ll never forget how he came to the casting, he had about three papers torn from the Ice Kingdom block in his hand, probably because he has three children, and there were notes, like : I’m crying, asshole! And elsewhere: In this scene, it’s in ***, it’s in ***.
And already at this casting, in the scene where he was supposed to cry, we watched as if in a trance that he was really crying without anyone having to drop his eyes. And during the filming, he experienced all the emotions extremely strongly. But it’s true that he always appreciated that at that time. Then he immediately came out of it, completely cleansed.
The film takes place, among other things, in a boxing environment that looks dirty and dark. Why isn’t it the boxing box you see on TV, for example?
Bradac: We wanted an environment that has a particular patina. Michal’s boxing gym is a place where people who need to find new energy through boxing, to bounce back from the bottom, find refuge. We didn’t want it to be modern, Michal wouldn’t even have more money. He wants to give space to people who sometimes bring him something in return, but it’s not a condition.
Bradacova: She cares about people who are trying to do something with their lives, and the microworld can help them. Overall, we wanted the film, except for the use of cell phones, to not have a set time and not a story from a specific location. It can happen anytime and anywhere.