Neptune: A lie based on reality

The new Czech film Neptune by director Adéla Babanová recounts an absurd case from the 1960s, making it an even more absurd story thanks to a combination of archive footage and fictional scenes. In 1964 the StB Communist secret police staged the sensational discovery of secret Nazi documents at the bottom of the lake Černé jezero with the aim of discrediting the policies of West Germany.

“The case is quite well documented. I learned about in a book by Ladislav Bittman from the StB, who thought up the whole plot involving the sinking of fake Nazi chests. Bittman emigrated after 1968 and wrote a memoir in which he divulges a lot,” said screenwriter Džian Baban of the film’s genesis.

The details of Operation Neptune could provide material for a whole series but the filmmakers decided to instead use them as inspiration for a film with a runtime of less than 40 minutes. “We were captivated by the fact that the case was indicative of the functioning of the StB and the KGB and of propaganda and disinformation. We were fascinated by how their lie, even though it was riddled with mistakes, was swallowed and believed by the world for ages,” said Baban.

Even the film Neptune is capable of disconcerting viewers and the director said she hoped that audiences grasp that the film is so absurd that it couldn’t happen. “Our fictional scenes are really tongue in cheek,” said Adéla Babanová. “Deception and lies occurred at that time and we wanted to catch the slipstream of that lie without having to go into all of the circumstances,” said Džian Baban.

Adéla Babanová comes from a visual art background and plans to show her longest film to date in galleries and museums. Neptune will also be screened at the LOOP video art festival in Barcelona in the autumn.