Austrian director Franz Novotny sets his engaging film during the August 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Prague, Czechoslovakia, focusing on an up-and-coming, outspoken Czech director named Honza David (Krystof Hádek) who captures the siege on film. David then attempts to flee to Vienna with the intent of taking his film to Helmut Zilk (Johannes Zeiler), the director of Austrian Television, who also happens to be a suitor of David’s love, actress Eva (Vica Kerekes). Despite their romantic rivalry, the two men work together to expose the truth of Russia’s the behind-the-scenes politic machinations to bring Czecholsovakia under Eastern Bloc control.
How did this film come about?
The plot originally came from the Czech Republic. In the course of the work, the plot was supplemented by the figure of the Viennese “Helmut Zilk,” who worked for the CSSR secret service in the 1960s.
What drew you to direct this particular story?
The focus is the conflict of conscience of the main figure Zilk, a womanizer, who is entangled in love affairs and who, through vanity, brings information to the secret service of the CSSR and thus becomes extortionable. How does he free himself from his dilemma?
What do you hope audiences take away from the film?
The audience goes along with the torn character of the main figure Zilk and wonders if it’s generally not more interesting to experience the hell with all the pretty things — like sex and espionage — rather than being bored by a solid job while being in heaven. And the question arises as to whether and how Zilk, who has stumbled and become an involuntary spy, can free himself from his entanglement. In our film, Zilk succeeds this liberation with the help of the chumminess of his buddies, who crush the affair and pave him the way for a future career.
Do you have another project in the works?
I am working on the history of the Aryanization (i.e., robbery of the Jews by the Nazis) of a Viennese house in 1938 by the Nazis and their owners, who were able to flee after the robbery. The granddaughter of this family, Julie Metz, lives in N.Y. and we are currently working on a novel/film about the history of this house, its family, and the greed and viciousness of those Viennese Nazis of March 1938 who benefitted. (It is coincidentally the house where our film production is situated nowadays.)
In this work an essential aspect seems to be interesting: Ultimately, the one among the seven deadly sins that [is] no fun at all — unlike lust, gluttony, pride, avarice, anger, or laziness — envy (to the Jews), became in national socialism finally “fun” and has also been economically profitable for the thieves and robbers. What an abominable paradox.