Menzel’s cinematographer shares recollections

23. 9. 2020, 22:27
Febiofest 2020

The Prague IFF – Febiofest has been paying tribute to the director Jiří Menzel, who died recently, with screenings of three of his films and a special debate. The latter event at Savarin Garden was attended by journalist Jan Foll and Jan Lukeš and Menzel’s regular cinematographer, Jaromír Šofr.

“I knew him as a cyclist, lover of canoeing and bookworm,” said the director’s long-term colleague, who first met Menzel at FAMU film school. “Jirka always had a palpable social sense. So like Bohumil Hrabal he was a humanitarian,” Šofr said.

His recollections also touched on Menzel’s feature debut, the Oscar-winning Closely Watched Trains. “He managed to put the right people in front of the camera. He resisted Barrandov’s suggestions of famous faces and instead brought in lesser-known or non-professional actors. He had a talent for penetrating a person’s personality,” the cinematographer said.

During the debate Jan Lukeš rejected suggestions that Menzel was a conformist who adapted to the regime during normalisation. Indeed, he and Jan Foll concurred that Menzel had in fact displayed courage in the communist period. “Jirka was certainly no defender of the old order. But he didn’t have idealised visions of the West, because he was able to travel quite a bit and had experienced it. And he saw how dehumanising money was,” said Šofr.

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