Vláčil masterpiece Markéta Lazarová undergoes digital restoration work

'Marketa Lazarova'

Restoration work has begun on the late František Vláčil’s 1967 film masterpiece Markéta Lazarová, telling the story of a kidnapping and pure love in the drastic Middle Ages. The B&W epic is being completely transferred using digital technology – with damage to the original picture and sound removed. Earlier I spoke to Vít Komrzý, the head of the post-production firm overseeing the intricate work, which will cost close to one million crowns. I asked him about the importance of the film as well as the need for new audiences to see it in its earlier pristine form.

'Markéta Lazarová'
“There’s no question the film is a masterpiece of Czech cinematography and that it is important. It is one that is usually ranks among the very best of Czech movies. It is good that we have a chance to restore it because it is very hard now to obtain a decent copy. For young people it should be a really nice experience to see the film in digital cinemas.”

Who took the decision to see the film restored?

“The decision was taken by the National Film Archive together with the Culture Ministry and it is a project that has received strong support from the president of the Karlovy Vary International Film festival, Jiří Bartoška. I know that they want the restored film to premiere there and that’s basically planned.”

What was the original condition of the film?

“Well it’s old and it was in storage for many years and it wasn’t great. There is a lot of restoration work involved. But it’s doable and I think the result will be very good.”

Vít Komrzý
What kind of technology is being used to clean up the picture and sound?

“The whole process is quite complex. First, the decision was to transfer the whole film to a digital copy; we are scanning the whole thing to 4K resolution, which makes sense. After that, the next thing is to clean up all the scratches and other damage which is painstakingly detailed work. This is a very time-consuming process. Then, once that is done, we have to go back and compare the digital version to the original to make sure the ‘look’ is as close to the original as possible.”

Have you seen the improvements already? Bits and pieces where the change is apparent?

“Of course. The commission overseeing the quality meets every week at our studio and we discuss all the necessary steps and the progress made. There is a very visible difference and the picture is crisp and clean, it’s amazing. All the dirt and scratches are history.”

'Markéta Lazarová'
Is it a sure thing that the film will see its ‘new’ premiere at the Karlovy Vary film festival?

“Well, it’s a lot of work over a short period of time but we have a contract and a deadline so we have to get it done. I don’t see any reason, though, why it wouldn’t be ready.”