Czechia puts forward composer biopic Il Boemo for Oscars

Vojtěch Dyk in the role of Josef Mysliveček in the movie Il Boemo

Il Boemo has been selected as the Czech nomination in the Best International Film category in the Oscars. Petr Václav’s movie tells the story of composer Josef Mysliveček and will get its world premiere at the San Sebastian film festival this weekend.

Petr Václav | Photo: Miloš Turek,  Radio Prague International

Il Boemo, which translates as The Bohemian, looks at the life and career of the 18th century composer Josef Mysliveček.

The Czech found great success in Italy in the opera seria genre and was a mentor and friend to Mozart, before later dying of syphilis in relative obscurity.

The film is written and directed by Petr Václav.

“We focus on his story – his rise and fall. It doesn’t include his childhood and so on. The main focus is on his life as a composer, or as somebody on the path to a career as a composer.”

Il Boemo stars the Czech actor and musician Vojtěch Dyk.

Vojtěch Dyk in the role of Josef Mysliveček in the movie Il Boemo | Photo: Jarmila Štuková,  Mimesis Film

He told Czech Radio that, not speaking the language, he had been forced to learn the mainly Italian-language script phonetically.

“There is one scene in Czech, when he meets his twin, but I also play that role. There’s also a scene in German, with Mozart. It was a huge experience for me. I had to learn the entire text off by heart, because I don’t speak Italian at all. Every free moment at home I was blathering away in ‘Italian’ – or at least an approximation of Italian.”

The drama was filmed at several locations in Czechia, including Prague’s Estates Theatre, Martinic Palace and Colloredo-Mansfeld Palace, as well as two cloisters and other spots outside the capital.

Some key scenes were also shot in Venice, as Vojtěch Dyk recalls.

Il Boemo | Photo: Pilot Film

“We got up early and the whole of Venice was filled with fog. For me it was one of my greatest experiences in any city. We were there at 5 AM on a period gondola. There were no people about and I had an amazing experience of empty Venice. It’s indescribable.”

Il Boemo naturally features the music of Josef Mysliveček. It is performed by the acclaimed Czech Baroque orchestra Collegium 1704, whose leader Václav Luks is the film’s music supervisor.

As for the style of the picture, director Petr Václav has cited Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon as a definite model.

He also says Miloš Forman’s Amadeus, itself shot in large part in Prague, was an inspiration.

Oscar | Photo: Martina Schneibergová,  Radio Prague International

Amadeus earned no fewer than eight Academy Awards and the Czech Film and Television Academy may have had that incredible success in mind when they selected Il Boemo as the country’s nomination for Best International Film in the Oscars, despite the fact it has not yet been screened publicly.

A shortlist of 15 works in that category will be announced in December while the actual nominees will be revealed in January. The Academy Awards ceremony takes place on February 24.

Il Boemo will get its world premiere at the San Sebastian International Film Festival on Sunday and will enter Czech cinema distribution on October 20.