When A War Came Into The City Of Most – A Film Classic In Six Weeks

ZUZ / Magazín Televize
When A War Came Into The City Of Most – A Film Classic In Six Weeks ZUZ / Magazín Televize Back

There is no doubt that Remarque’s novel All quiet on the western front is a classic piece of literature. And the same applies to its film version filmed in 1979 by director Delbert Man. However, not everybody recalls that it was shot twenty-three years ago in Czechoslovakia.

After 1968 when the Americans couldn’t finish filming the Bridge at Remagen, because of the political events, no production wanted to enter into an insecure cooperation with the precarious country.

Next foreign contract came eleven years later and it was then won by Jan Kadlec’s production team. Preparations for the remake of the famous black-and-white film were made in a record time. Foreign filmmakers took advantage of a situation that was unique. At that time, due to coal mining, the old city of Most and its several nearby villages were being demolished, which provided ideal conditions for shooting a war film. The Czech-German-American crew shot the movie in just six weeks. It was the very first experience of this kind, and many future prominent filmmakers had their first professional experience here.

Interpreters are a very important part of the team. They made the communication in the international team possible and they, like everyone else, worked on a similar project without much previous experience.

Dr. Annamaria Kolarova was one of the pioneers of international cooperation and she recalls “This movie was a landmark in many respects. For example, Jaroslav Tomsa, Zdeněk Srstka or Karel Engl performed their first stunts here. Bob Simons came from England, a legend who was the stunt double for Sean Connery in all his Bond films. What our stuntmen learned there and then became the foundation on which they built their later careers. I will never forget Yvone Šebesťáková, she was an interpreter for the stuntmen. She was English, she had married a Czech pilot, and at that time she was about sixty-years old. She ran in the trenches, puddled in mud with the stuntmen showing them with all her strength what was required of them.

The three kilometers of trenches that appear in the picture were as real as the rats that the filmmakers had brought. Only the barbed wires were made of plastic so that no one would get hurt. All the filmmaking techniques of today were just a distant dream then. Extras were played by soldiers from the state military service, who were dressed in the first World War uniforms, and students from the film school (FAMU) were cast in some small parts. The smoke floating over the battlefield was arranged by the pyro-technicians setting the tires on fire. “We should have been wearing masks because of the ghastly smoke, but they make communicating in a foreign language impossible, so we all had them under the chin. No one can imagine what we looked like in the evening. All blondes turned dark-haired. It was like we all lived in the real war during the entire time of shooting. We were given war clothes, because our civilian clothes would have been completely ruined in the muddy trenches and in ever-present eternal smoke and dirt. “

Patricia Neal, who played the role of the main character’s mother, was the wife of writer Roald Dahl. At that time, she had already had some serious life experiences. She had an aneurysm, and the doctors’ verdict was that she would never walk or talk again. Roald Dahl, however, refused to accept that prognosis, and by long-term purposeful rehabilitation and exercises, he managed to help her to get back to her feet so that no one could tell that she had ever been ill. Actually, their story was filmed, and the couple was played by Glenda Jackson and Dirk Bogarde. Jiří Krampol and Rudolf Jelínek also had a small role in the film. Krampol, who played the role of a sniper, was to say a sentence: I’ve got him! He practiced determinedly in order to sound correctly. Annamaria Kolarová says: “Mr. Krampol kept coming to us and wanted us to teach him to say it perfectly. For what we were doing as interpreters then, today there is a special profession called dialogue coaches. Then we did it without them. “

The work of the Czech team on the film All quiet on the western front begun a long and successful era of international film collaboration, which produced films such as Amadeus, Hot Secrets or Yentl. “I think Jan Kadlec was never fully appreciated. He had the extraordinary ability to choose capable and reliable people, and I certainly do not speak just for myself when I say that I am grateful to him for having prepared us for the present day. He had capitalist ethics when we did not even think about capitalism yet. He demanded maximum from his people, but on the other hand he managed to provide work and decent money. His production team was like his family and he was called Papa Kadlec for a reason, ” says the interpreter with a smile. For her and many of her colleagues this film was their first international experience.

(zuz) / TELEVIZE magazine