“It was very visual”: New doc revisits Covid period in Czechia

Velké nic / The Great Nothing

A new documentary looking at many aspects of the Covid period in Czechia hits cinemas this Thursday, the third anniversary of the country’s first coronavirus lockdown. Entitled Velké nic, or The Great Nothing, the thought-provoking black and white film is directed by Vít Klusák and Marika Pecháčková.

Velké nic / The Great Nothing | Photo: Adam Hříbal,  Hypermarket Film

The Great Nothing provides a fascinating, sometimes poetic look at life in Czechia during the Covid period.

It follows a number of characters, including an opera singer forced to work in a supermarket and a campaigner against government measures since convicted of spreading disinformation.

The Great Nothing is the work of married couple Marika Pecháčková and Vít Klusák (known for Caught in the Net).

The former explains the pair’s motivations in chronicling various aspects of Covid.

Marika Pecháčková | Photo: Alexis Rosenzweig,  Radio Prague International

“Vít really has the heart of a documentarian and once he sees that something special is happening in the world, he just has to shoot it.

“I think he was very interested by the nothing that we could see in the streets, that it was very visual, what was happening.

“And on my side, what was attracting me was that it was the first time that we went through this kind of moment in our history, if we talk about our culture. That in one time all the world had the same experience, and the world stopped.”

Velké nic / The Great Nothing | Photo: Adam Hříbal,  Hypermarket Film

The Great Nothing is shot in black and white, to avoid looking like TV news, and the visuals are a cut above many documentaries. Pecháčková says the virus itself is partly to thank for that.

“During Covid all the international movies that were shot in the Czech Republic, mainly American movies, had to stop.

“So all the big cameras that are used by these big crews were left, and nobody used them.

“So we could rent them for really little money. That’s why it looks so beautiful – because we really had the best cameras in the world, and the best lenses.”

Velké nic / The Great Nothing | Photo: Adam Hříbal,  Hypermarket Film

Vít Klusák says many viewers even forget they are watching a monochrome documentary.

“We know from pre-premieres that a strange thing happens. Viewers say, Was the whole film in black and white, because I felt that from halfway through it was in colour?

“We say, No, there’s not one colour shot in the whole film. Maybe that’s connected with something we often hear, which is that viewer’s own Covid ‘films’ start up in their minds, stemming from their own Covid experiences.”

Velké nic / The Great Nothing | Photo: Adam Hříbal,  Hypermarket Film

Marika Pecháčková says a lot of people ask the filmmakers why they should watch a film about Covid, such a miserable period for many.

“We think that Covid, besides all the tragedies that it brought to our lives, also brought something very positive that we didn’t catch.

“We had to throw it away with the trauma, you know.

“And we think that we should maybe rethink it and try to realise that Covid showed us that what we thought is impossible to do is actually possible to do. Let’s say, that airplanes don’t have to fly.

"And it’s very easy.”