THE PLAY'S THE THING

VACLAV HAVEL, ART AND POLITICS


November 24-December 12, 2014

Boston, Cambridge and Clinton, MA

   Few people of the arts have had as much influence on national and international politics as the dramatist Václav Havel (1936–2011). Havel changed the course of twentieth-century history both by mixing theater with politics as a dissident intellectual in the era when Czechoslovakia was ruled by the Communist Party, and leading the country as its president after the Velvet Revolution ended its single-party control of the state. His plays, filled with metaphor and pointed innuendo, had exposed the failings of the system, and Havel became a hero in an epic struggle and eventually a world-renowned statesman. After Czechoslovakia split into two different nations in 1993, he served as the first president of the Czech Republic until 2003, and then returned to writing and civilian life.

This program is based on the places and people that Havel knew, from the influential Theatre on the Balustrade, where his theatrical career began, to his friendships with filmmakers of the Czech New Wave, and to his political ascendancy in Prague. The films being presented have been curated by Margaret Parsons, head of the film department at the National Gallery of Art. They are made available courtesy of Margaret Parsons, The Václav Havel Library, the National Film Archive in Prague, Czech Television, and the Embassy of the Czech Republic.

Please see below for details of dates, locations and programs. The films are in Czech with English subtitles. All showings are open to the public free of charge.

Overview

Monday, November 24, 6:00 PM, Brattle Theater
40 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138. t. 617.876.6837
A Report on the Party and Guests, Who Is Václav Havel... & The Uninvited Guest (Nezvaný host)
Introduction & Q&A by Igor Lukes, Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic in Boston, and professor of International Relations, Boston University. Co-presented by the Brattle Theater, WorldBoston and BRCP.
In addition to honoring the legacy of Havel, this screening also commemorates the fateful events of 25 years ago in which he played a role--the Velvet Revolution which lasted from November 16/17 to December 29, 1989--and through which the Communist Party leadership was forced to resign and the Party to relinquish its monopoly on political power.

A Report on the Party and Guests (O slavnosti a hostech). Jan Němec, 1968, 71 min.
A pleasant afternoon outing is cut short when a few pushy intruders force a group of friends to play a round of ridiculous party games. Jan Němec’s absurdist parable on the behavior of authority figures is a landmark of the Czech New Wave of the brief Prague Spring.
Who Is Václav Havel...(Kdo je Václav Havel…)Helena Matiášová, 1977, 11 min.
A short propaganda film, produced for the communist regime in the 1970s to disparage Havel, his plays, and his supposed wealth.
The Uninvited Guest (Nezvaný host) Vlastimil Venclík, 1969, 22 min.
When a boorish official enters and makes himself at home in a young couple’s flat, it’s soon apparent that all the flats in the building face the same dilemma—each has its own intruder. A short parable on socialist living for which the director was banned from making films for twenty years.

Monday, December 8, 6:00 PM, Boston University
Room B-05, College of Communication, 640 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02115.
The Heart Above the Castle & Joseph Killian
Introduction and Q&A with Igor Lukes, Professor of International Relations, Boston University, and Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic in Boston. Co-presented by the Center for the Study of Europe at Boston University and BRCP.
The Heart above the Castle (Srdce nad Hradem). Jan Němec, 2007, 48 minutes.
In this documentary, Němec follows Havel behind the scenes at the 2002 NATO Summit in Prague and brings the formal world of politics and the grandeur of NATO into the realm of the everyday. Traveling into areas normally inaccessible and interviewing people normally unreachable (heads of state, for example), the footage shows a surprisingly “human side” of top politicians, capturing comical commentaries, hesitancies, and small stresses.
Joseph Killian aka A Person to Be Supported (Postava k podpírání). Pavel Juráček, 1963, 38 minutes.
A man searches for an old acquaintance in Prague. On a whim, he enters a state-run cat rental shop and leases a feline for a day. When his search for Kilian proves futile, he attempts to drop off the cat, but finds that the rental store has completely vanished.

Thursday, December 11, 6:00 PM, The Museum of Russian Icons
203 Union Street, Clinton, MA 01510. t. 978.598.5000
And the Beggar's Opera Again & Who is Vaclav Havel...
Introduction and Q&A with BRCP Executive Director, Anna Winestein. Co-presented by the Museum of Russian Icons and BRCP.
And the Beggar’s Opera Again (A znovu Žebrácká opera). Olga Sommerová, 1996, 60 minutes.
Through Olga Sommerová’s creatively intercut film, two productions of Václav Havel’s Beggar’s Opera reveal the political dynamics of the former Czechoslovakia before and after the Velvet Revolution in 1989. The dress rehearsal of the play’s world premiere in 1975 captures the stress of artists who conspired through theater against the totalitarian regime. Starkly contrasting is the relaxed atmosphere of another dress rehearsal in 1995 at Havel’s cottage in the village of Hrádeček, where informal dialogue among the artists, Havel, and his wife Olga offers an intimate view of the changing tides.
Who Is Václav Havel...(Kdo je Václav Havel…)Helena Matiášová, 1977, 11 min.
A short propaganda film, produced for the communist regime in the 1970s to disparage Havel, his plays, and his supposed wealth.


Vaclav Havel Report on the Party and Guests

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