New Experience for Faye Dunaway

Hofmanová / Svobodné slovo
New Experience for Faye Dunaway Hofmanová / Svobodné slovo Back

The film “Burning Secret” is being filmed

HOTEL ESPLANADE, a dominant feature of Mariánské Lázně and its surrounding scenery, became the place for filming the English-American co-production film “Burning Secrets” during February and March. Services are provided by the commissions department of the Barrandov Studios under the leadership of Jan Kadlec and Tomáš Gabrisse. A New Year’s Eve party is being held in the large lobby of the hotel. The rustling evening gowns of elderly ladies (Nelly Gajerova being one of them) are reminiscent of the twenties. Necklaces in their décolletage sparkle wonderfully. They same as the costumes are genuine and imported from Vienna.

I’m waiting for the famous Faye Dunaway. Her star started shining brightly twenty years ago in Bonnie and Clyde – almost all over the world. Faye Dunaway starred as the legendary gangster bride Bonnie Parker, whose real-life story took place in the 1930s in the United States. We have also seen Faye Dunaway as the tragic figure of Evelyn Malwray in Roman Polanski’s film Chinatown, filmed in 1974 and recently shown on the Czech Television. And of course, many viewers remember her from the film Three Days of the Condor or Oklahoma Crude. In 1976, she won the Oscar for the role of a television reporter in the movie Network, which was never put in the cinemas here.

While I am recalling her movie characters, I did not notice she had already arrived. She is sitting at a table a few steps away from me and her makeup artist Jane Carvell is still adjusting her hairstyle. I would say that this prominent actress is almost inconspicuous at first glance. Only when she gets up will her slim, tall figure stand out. She is wearing pink flats and an evening gown of the same old-pink color. Her ash blonde hair is pulled back, and her eyes shine brightly in her face. Her film partner, Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer, has also arrived. He is well known not only for the films Mephisto and Colonel Redl but also from shooting the West German film Spider’s Web here in Czechoslovakia.

Music on the podium starts playing – but there is no sound, because the playback had already been recorded. Ernst S. Day, an English man, is the cameraman. Vladimir Michálek, a Czech assistant director, is crouching under the camera almost leading the dancers’ steps. Just to keep filling the gap in front of the camera lens that follows the dancing pair of the main characters. It is the moment when the baron (K.M.Brandauer) seduces Sonya (F.Dunaway). Their eyes are doing all the talking, no words necessary. K. M. Brandauer is perfect for the role of the seducer. There is nothing just black and white, there is no simple villain. Negative characters give actors more room for acting, but what about the audience and their sympathy? “Naturally, I cannot change the stupid view of the audience who identify the actor with the characters he played,” K.M.Brandauer said fittingly.

The atmosphere of the New Year’s Eve party is very authentic. We are in the Austrian spas just after the First World War and we are watching the play of two people who give each other the promise of mutual sympathy.


The English director Andrew Birkin has worked as a screenwriter before (e.g.: The Name of the Rose, which is also now featured here and where he played one of the monks).  At the age of thirty-four, Burning Secrets is his directorial debut. He also wrote the script for the movie. It is based on Steven Zweig’s short story of the same name. The film describes an intimate story of three people. The wife of the American diplomat in Vienna, Sonya, is leaving with her twelve-year-old son, Edmund, for asthma treatment to a spa. Their relationship is flawless. An Austrian baron is being treated for war wounds in the same sanatorium and he is roughly of the same age as Sonya. The baron meets Sonya through her son and he tries to seduce her. Jealous Edmund at the beginning instinctively and later deliberately fights for the unique relationship he has with his mother.

“It’s actually a sensitive thriller” describes the story the actress Faye Dunaway. “A lot of things are not mentioned at all, but they are obvious from the story. The boy is fighting for his mother’s love which he had had exclusively for himself until now. When Sonya lets the baron seduce her she discovers her feminine side. So far, she had been devoted to the role of mother. At the same time, however, she is attracted to baron’s wilderness and a certain kind of cynicism. The Baron himself says he does not feel anything; nor love nor pain. Pursuing Sonya is just a game for him. The character of Sonya is a very beautiful role. She’s far more real than all the characters I’ve ever created. It gives me the opportunity to show a deeper and finer way to be a woman than it is usual in similar roles. It’s a new experience for me.”

Right now, they are filming a scene in the picture gallery, which was transformed from a spa café in Mariánské Lázně. Edmund is slowly following his mother and the baron. He is upset because he can’t understand them when they talk German to each other. He feels betrayed and unnecessary. Suddenly he is drawn to a picture called Burning Secrets, it portrays an intimate relationship between a man and a woman.  He can’t fully comprehend the meaning of the picture but he senses that therein lies the core of his problem – being jealous of his mother.

“My film son Edmund – David Eboris from Canada -” says Faye Dunaway, “he is an extremely sensitive and gifted child. We established a very nice relationship during our work on the movie. I have a seven-year-old son myself, and I know what such a relationship could mean. Actually, it is imperative for our performance in the film to act as a true couple – a mother and a son who are so deeply in love.”

Producer Carol Green from the USA is enthusiastic about her first collaboration with the Czech cinematography. She is connected to the movie through the West German company of Bob Arnold and the English producer Norma Heymann. “I have an incredibly good feeling,” she says, “what we filmed here is on a very high level and it is because of the exquisite exteriors and excellent cooperation with Czech filmmakers. When I watch our daily work and at the same time consider all the problems we had to deal with – lots of snow, cold weather, three teams whose work had to be coordinated and we had to make sure they communicated through the interpreters – and all that had to be supervised by the Czech team – I can safely say that the results are excellent. Our Czech colleagues go beyond their line of duty and the production manager Mr. Kadlec is performing miracles for us … I hope he will continue to do so.”

When a question of how cooperation with Czech cinematography started, Mrs. Green responds:

“I go to many festivals as a producer to buy movies. I met the director of Czech Filmexport Mr. Janošek in Rio de Janeiro – it was at a time when we were looking for places to shoot the Burning Secrets movie. Because of this meeting and the excellent experience of the German co-producer Mr. Junkersdorff’s cooperation with Mr. Kadlec’s production team, we have decided for Czechoslovakia – and the result is that we are actually filming here. ”

Hofmanová / Svobodné slovo