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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Czech Republic

Absurd tragicomedy Silent Companion enters post-production

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- Czech director-screenwriter-author Pavel Göbl explores the rather unusual idea of vertical burials with his latest project

Absurd tragicomedy Silent Companion enters post-production
Writer-director Pavel Göbl and Ondřej Malý (as the local gravedigger) on the set of Silent Companion (© BontonFilm)

Czech film and television director, screenwriter, producer and author Pavel Göbl (whose last feature film was the black-and-white dramedy Supervising the Meaning of Dreams in 2018) is in post-production with his latest feature-length project, the tragicomedy Silent Companion. Göbl is adapting his own novel of the same name, his literary debut for which he won the domestic Discovery of the Year Award, and which, in fact, he originally adapted from the screenplay (which scooped the RWE Award for the best as-yet-unmade script).

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His literary works are written in an absurd style (like his second novel, The Penis of Truth, which one reviewer likened to the British sitcom Red Dwarf, even though the book centres on two labourers and a prostitute on a quest for immortality). Silent Companion is no different, billed as a rural tragicomedy with a clutch of odd characters. One of them, a gravedigger and “a village idiot” type of character, comes up with the idea of vertical burials when the local cemetery declares it has no more space, given that cremation is not an option, in accordance with Catholic doctrines.

The film’s story hinges on the return of Lenka (Klára Issová) from Prague back to her childhood village in order to recharge her batteries after her divorce. Here, she encounters a cavalcade of “lost souls”. Göbl’s characters are described as “gentle barbarians” (a definition that definitely suits the protagonists from recent domestic box-office hits, such as the comedy Přes prsty by Petr Kolečko). However, Göbl does not use them to get laughs, but rather as a means of expression to reflect the present day and to create what the director calls “a folk farce about the decay of Western civilisation”. The film is said to employ elements of magical realism to convey “the loss of spiritual identity and its crumbling over an empty form of entertainment”, in the guise of an absurd tragicomedy.

The characters speak in a mixture of dialects from Moravian Slovakia and Moravian Wallachia, giving the impression that they are “civilian but with the detachment of informed naivety”, according to the helmer. The cinematography, entrusted to Jan Horáček, who lensed Göbl’s previous absurd ventures, the films Rail Yard Blues and Harila and 4 Punkers, is said to be in the style of Jean-François Millet (for the “melancholic passages in the film”) and Czech painter Joža Úprka, who combined elements of Romanticism and Art Nouveau (for the “playful passages”).

Principal photography has already wrapped, as the shoot started towards the end of September. The film is in post-production, even though a couple of additional scenes are due to be shot, as co-producer Vojtěch Frič, of Love.Frame, confirmed to Cineuropa. On screen, well-known Czech actors such as Klára Issová, Bolek Polívka and Ondřej Malý mingle with various locals who were cast in supporting roles.

Silent Companion is being produced by Přemysl Klimsza and Tomáš Bělohradský, of Czech outfit FILM, and co-produced by Love.Frame, BontonFilm, Adéla Wernerová and writer-director Pavel Göbl, through Wet Cat Pictures and Czech Television. The Czech Film Fund has also supported the film. Silent Companion is scheduled for a domestic theatrical release on 30 July 2020.

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