Fireworks herald return of Karlovy Vary

Czech festival back in business with a fanfare and a flourish

by Richard Mowe

Crowds gather for Karlovy Vary’s opening film Superheroes followed by a concert and fireworks
Crowds gather for Karlovy Vary’s opening film Superheroes followed by a concert and fireworks Photo: KVIFF
Festival president Jiří Bartoška arrives for the opening ceremony
Festival president Jiří Bartoška arrives for the opening ceremony Photo: KVIFF
After two years in the pandemic doldrums the Karlovy International Film Festival burst back on the scene last night with a determinedly bold face for its 56th edition with its usual eclectic mix of red carpet glamour, live music, a party free-for-all in that icon of brutalist arcand fireworks over the wooded hills of the Bohemian spa town.

The opening film Superheroes was well chosen to reflect the feel-good vibe, directed by Paolo Genovese, whose credits include Perfect Strangers and deals with romantic love and the passing of time.

Alessandro Borghi and Jasmine Trinca play the two protagonists Anna and Marco and Genovese follows their relationship through various twists and turns over a period of 20 years.

She is a rebellious cartoonist and allergic to conventions, who speaks and expresses herself through her alter ego on paper Drusilla. He is a university professor who has entrusted the laws of physics with the task of explaining sentiments and emotions.

For a Festival coming back from the edge it had certain resonances. With the pandemic the couple’s relationship had changed profoundly, especially after two years spent in close contact.

The gala evening began with an unexpected announcement to the audience to turn on their phones and start recording. A choreographed musical number followed comparing the possibilities of virtual and real encounters.

Alessandro Borghi and Jasmine Trinca play the two protagonists Anna and Marco in Paolo Genovese’s Superheroes, last night’s opening film at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Alessandro Borghi and Jasmine Trinca play the two protagonists Anna and Marco in Paolo Genovese’s Superheroes, last night’s opening film at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Photo: Courtesy of KVIFF
“We are living in strange times, and by that I mean the senseless and cruel war in Ukraine,” said the festival president Jiří Bartoška, comparing filmmakers to modern Hamlets trying to set right the time that is out of joint.

He also recalled the importance and legacy of Eva Zaoralová, the longtime artistic director of the festival who died earlier in the year, and to whom a commemorative video clip was dedicated. The duo ran the Festival in tandem for more than 30 years. Bartoška recalled that Zaoralová eschewed the company of the big stars to spend time with more “intellectual” directors and actors.

In an interview he suggested that “Movie stars are a bit like a battering ram for the media, but Eva had her guests, whom she paid attention to, had something to talk about with. She could speak French, Italian and it was not until she was in her sixties that she began to learn English and master English. I remember her having a lovely chat with Gina Lollobrigida, for example, and it was clear that they got on well.”

At the close of the opening ceremony, the jury and the 12 nominees for the Crystal Globe were introduced with Bartoška declaring that the nine-day-long celebration of cinema had begun in earnest, and against the odds.

Music and flames at the opening ceremony of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Music and flames at the opening ceremony of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Photo: KVIFF

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