New exhibition gives lovers of Czech fairy tale films a chance to see original costumes up close

Photo: CTK

Film versions of fairytales are hugely popular in the Czech Republic, with the likes of Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella, The Golden-Star Princess and Once There was a King staples of the television schedules around Christmas time. Many of the best loved film fairytales were made during the communist era at Prague’s famous Barrandov studios. A year ago, an exhibition organized in collaboration with Barrandov for the first time gave Czech fairytale fanatics a chance to take a peek at the original costumes used in their favorite films. This year, another exhibition is being put on with additional, never before exhibited costumes that the organizers managed to hunt down since the last exhibition closed. Vladimir Žán is one of the organizers of “Jak se oblékají pohádky”, which translates as “How fairy tales dress” in English. We spoke on the eve of the show’s opening at Prague’s Municipal House.

“This exhibition is an exhibition of original costumes from Czech fairy tales, it’s really from the oldest and most famous fairy tales you can think of like Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella, Once There Was a King and The Proud Princess, and all of these famous titles are exhibited there and you can see all the original costumes in one place, and I have to say that some of those costumes were ever exhibited before.”

Preparing the exhibition,  photo: CTK
Is it exclusively costumes or is it props as well?

“There are also some props, like tools from the kitchen of the film The Golden-Star Princess and you can also see the small puppet featured in The Girl on the Broomstick with the young Jan Hrušínský, so there are also some props but it is mostly costumes.”

And how did you go about acquiring costumes, did you collaborate with Barrandov Studios?

“Yes, the whole exhibition was made in collaboration with the costume and props division of Barrandov studios, but it still was very hard work, because they have thousands of costumes, and finding those we needed for the exhibition was very hard work.”

So if you say it was hard work, how long ago did you start compiling those costumes?

“It took a few months until the first collection was completed, and you could see it at Strahov monastery last year around Christmas, and the exhibition you can visit this year in the Municipal House, features another 15 titles. So the costumes that were added to last year’s exhibition, we had to find in the last year.”

Actor Miroslav Táborský with one of the costumes,  photo: CTK
Why do you think are fairy tales so hugely popular with the Czechs?

“I think it’s a combination of the very good name of the Czech filmmaking and filmmakers, like Václav Vorlíček, who also has a few titles in the exhibition, and then the same reason that fairy tales are popular all around the world, because they deal with a fantasy world, a happy world.”

Do you think to some extent it is connected to the Communist era? Were there any famous Czech fairy tales made after 1989?

“I have to say that most fairy tales were shot before that year, and they have the feeling of an old ear for us now, but I am not sure if it is really connected to this dividing point.”

And what would you say is the most recognized costume in your exhibit?

“It was the fairy tale of the century- Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella and you can find costumes from all three hazelnuts, and it’s definitely the exhibit that people just stand in front of and stare, because it is magic.”

Was it difficult in terms of insurance for Barrandov to lend you the costumes?

'Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella'
“There was one issue that some of the costumes are part of the cultural heritage, a list of the Ministry of Culture, and those costumes have to be handled in a special way, they have to behind glass, and this is the only problem, otherwise, you just insure it as a normal costume.”

Are there a lot of children visitors, or rather adults trying to revisit the old fairy tales?

“I have to say that all kinds of people are coming, and all of them are very happy leaving the exhibition, because the fairy tales are so old that all people remember them from their childhood, so you can see really happy children looking for costumes of their heroes and also crying old people, mothers and grandmothers, that are just as happy as their children.”

Is it a coincidence that the exhibition is opening around Christmas time, when most of the fairy tales are shown on Czech television?

“We are trying to make those holidays really nice for the people, so we thought it was a perfect time to show the exhibits to people and remind them of all those wonderful fairy tales and costumes, so it’s not really a coincidence.”

So this is the sequel to an exhibition that took place last year, do you have any plans for the future?

“Definitely, the first exhibition, as I said, opened at Strahov monastery last year, then we took it to Pilsen and now, there is a second part to it because we added 100 new costumes from 15 new titles, and we are planning to go to other Czech towns such as Liberec or Brno and other Czech cities later, but first up on our list is the exhibition in Berlin.”

Photo: CTK
How is the interest of people living abroad in Czech fairytales?

“Especially in Germany it is huge, because a lot of fairy tales were made in co-production with Germany, and Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella might be even more popular in Germany than it is here, even though it is a Czech fairy tale of the century.”