New Czech film depicts true story of 1913 ski race
A new film about a famous skiing race that took place in the Krkonoše or the Giant Mountains in 1913 comes to Czech cinemas this week. Called The Last Race, it depicts the true story of Czech skiing pioneers and friends, Bohumil Hanč and Václav Vrbata, who tragically died in a blizzard on the mountain ridge.
Tomáš Hodan’s film about the ill-fated race, which resulted in the death of two Czech skiers Bohumil Hanč and Václav Vrbata will premiere in Prague on Thursday, March 24, exactly 109 years since the tragic event took place.
Apart from recounting the famous event as it really happened, The Last Race also depicts the hardships of life in the Krkonoše at the beginning of the century and highlights relations between the native Czech and German populations, says its producer Ondřej Beránek:
“It was the beginning of skiing and there were two national communities, Czechs and Germans, in the Giant Mountains. They had their own skiing clubs, but they never competed with each other because of national rivalry.
“But in this particular race in 1913 they decided to compete together for the first time to see who was better on skis. That’s why the Czech skiing master Bohumil Hanč decided to take part in the race although he finished his career a year before.”
The 50-kilometre race started in sunny weather, but after an hour or so conditions suddenly deteriorated. All the participants gradually pulled out of the race, except for Hanč, who was in the lead and had no idea about what was going on.
Being only lightly dressed, Hanč lost his way in the blizzard and collapsed in the snow. Although he was discovered by a fellow German racer Emerich Rath and pulled to safety, he died of exhaustion and hypothermia. So did his friend Václav Vrbata, who went looking for him.
The famous story of Hanč and Vrbata has been depicted in film before, but according to Ondřej Beránek, it was not entirely truthful:
“We decided to tell the story again because we discovered the character of the Prague German Emerich Rath, who was somehow erased from the story of the film made in 1956.
“It was 10 years after the Second World War and a German, who somehow became a hero of the story, wasn’t appropriate at the time. That’s why we wanted to tell the story again.”
The Last Race, starring the well-known Czech actor Kryštof Hádek in the lead role of Bohumil Hanč, was shot last winter on the location of the actual race:
“We decided to shoot the film in the exact places on top of the Giant Mountains, because we wanted to create an authentic atmosphere.
“We took it as a production and creative challenge and I hope that the viewers will feel the extreme conditions on the screen and that they will actually feel cold watching the film in the cinema!”