New film recreates encounter between Masaryk and Karel Čapek

Martin Huba as T.G. Masaryk and Jan Budař as Karel Čapek, photo: Bontonfilm

Little over a week before the centenary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia, a freshly released film brings the state’s founder to the big screen. Talks with T.G. Masaryk reconstructs a single conversation between the “father of the nation” and writer Karel Čapek, another symbol of the First Republic era.

Martin Huba as T.G. Masaryk and Jan Budař as Karel Čapek,  photo: Bontonfilm
At the turn of the 1930s the great Czech writer Karel Čapek brought out a three-part volume entitled Talks with T.G. Masaryk.

Based on interviews with the founder and first president of Czechoslovakia, the collection recorded Masaryk’s attitudes to politics, religion and life and were authorised by their subject.

A single, 90-minute conversation between these two symbols of Czechoslovakia’s First Republic at Slovakia’s Topolčianky Castle is the focus of a new film that hit Czech cinema screens on Thursday.

The movie, also entitled Talks with T.G. Masaryk, is set in 1928 and shows the president at 78 and the author in his late 30s.

It is directed by Jakub Červenka.

“I wanted to approach these two major figures of Czech history not as they appear in history books – where they are placed on pedestals – but more as real people. Their meeting takes place in a gorgeous park in Topolčianky, where Masaryk had a summer residence and where Čapek visited him. As well as holding a clever, philosophical dialogue, they also silently looked at the countryside and discussed everyday issues. But there is nothing in the film from the book – it’s a newly written psychological drama.”

Perhaps best-known for his science fiction writing, Karel Čapek – who gave the world the word “robot” – is played by Jan Budař in the two-hander movie.

Photo: Bontonfilm
Masaryk was dubbed the father of the nation and remains the model of a great statesman for many Czechs. He is portrayed – complete with distinctive cap and white beard – by Martin Huba.

The veteran Slovak actor outlines the makers’ approach.

“We didn’t try especially hard to create a general depiction of these two historical figures. We weren’t at all trying to show him as the ‘father of the nation’ – he couldn’t stand that and didn’t agree with it. What we were really interested in the rich, harmonious inner life of this historical hero. To put it simply, we were trying to map the private life of a historical hero.”

Thursday has also seen the publication of a book dedicated to the founder of Czechoslovakia. Jiný Masaryk, or A Different Masaryk, was written by Pavel Kosatík, who also produced the screenplay of the new film.

However, Mr. Kosatík says there is no connection between the two projects, with the book being a straightforward biography.