Highly-anticipated thriller hits Czech screens
This Wednesday saw the premiere of the highly-anticipated Czech crime thriller Kajínek, partly based on events surrounding one of the Czech Republic’s most notorious convicts. Found guilty of two contract killings in the ‘90s, Jiří Kajínek would probably have remained forgotten behind bars had it not been for a daring escape from the country’s toughest prison. He has also always maintained he was innocent.
“I wouldn’t say that he was a symbol for that time: he was just one of many thieves and nobody knew who he was until his escape from the Czech answer to Alcatraz, Mírov prison, in 2000.”
Why he was an inspiration for you?
If we look at the real-life Jiří Kajínek, what were some of the difficulties faced by the actor who portrayed him, say in terms of physical presence?
“It was really difficult to find someone for the role, for a number of reasons. For one, everybody knows him, he’s a living person still in prison and everyone knows his face. We tried to find someone who was not Czech, who was a foreigner, because it would make it easier for people to believe that he was Kajínek. It wasn’t important to find someone who was really physically built but the role did require good physical condition. Kosta Lavranenko is such a person: not only clever but also in good shape and he was perfect for the part. He prepared for the role for two months and then he came to Prague to practice some of the fight scenes.”
“That was quite difficult to reach agreement but in the end they helped us a lot. In the end, we shot at the actual Mírov – the toughest prison in the Czech Republic. I think that there are 380 inmates there and 180 of them are killers.”
This was the last film that the actor Vladimír Dlouhý worked on: it must have been very emotional - what was it like to work with him at this point in his life?
“It was really nice because he was a true professional. He had some problems during the shoot but he didn’t let on: he didn’t want people to feel sorry for him. Acting was his life and he pursued it to the last. I remember as a person who was always smiling and very kind to everyone and we were always happy whenever he was on the set.”
What was work like with director of photography F.A. Brabec? It seems some of the scenes that were shot, for example, when Kajínek was free were purposely very claustrophobic…
This is your debut as a director but you were a judo champion and also an actor in different Hollywood action movies: how did your background help you approach this project?
“It helped a lot. I have been in film for 15 years. I started as a stuntman, then I worked as actor, and then I had a lot of chances in American action movies. It all helped. I did this film according to my feelings: I didn’t read about directing and all that: I just did it. I followed my feelings rather than follow the rules, and maybe that’s one reason why the film is different.”
You made a distinction at the press conference between your film being inspired by the Kajínek story and actual events in his case and also mentioned some statistics… Could I ask you to talk a bit about that as well as whether you think the ‘truth’ will ever come out?
“There is a poll which was published on the internet today related to the case and whether you can receive justice in the Czech Republic: 93 percent said they believe the police are corrupt and 86 percent said they thought Mr Kajínek’s case should be reopened. Nobody is saying that the Mr Kajínek should be let go just like that. We just want his case to be re-opened and dealt with again.”