PODCAST | Matt Micucci interviews Petr Kazda, co-director of the film I, Olga Hepnarová from the 51st Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
To listen to the interview, click on the ► icon on the right, just above the picture
“This is my verdict. I, Olga Hepnarová, a victim of your brutality, sentence you to death by vehicle.” These are the haunting words written by a young woman, Olga Hepnarova, before running over a crowd of random people walking down a street, with a truck. The haunting story, which took place in Prague, then Czechoslovakia, in 1973, is the starting point with which directors Petr Kazda and Tomas Weinreb imagined the reasons behind such a senseless and famous act of everyday terrorism.
We caught up with Kazda, who screened the film I, Olga Hepnarova as part of a section dedicated to some of the best titled Czech cinema had to offer over this past year.
We had a chance to talk about why he believes this particular story still resonates with present times. We also asked him about his collaboration with the lead actress, who dominates the action on-screen, and the director even tells us why the choice of casting Michalina Olszanska, a Polish actress playing a Czech female, made so much sense. In addition, we also talk about the specific style, such as the use of black and white and mostly still camerawork, as well as the challenges of constructing a story around an anti-hero, compared to a character that is meant to be liked and admired by the audience, and a female anti-hero at that.
I, OLGA HEPNAROVA: Normalization-era Prague, July 10, 1973. A 22-year-old woman by the name of Olga Hepnarova borrows a Praga truck and heads for the tram stop at Strossmayer Square. Once there, she steps on the gas and slams into a group of 30 people, killing eight. She later admits to the mass murder, explaining that she was punishing a heartless society for tormenting her. Two years later she was hanged, the last woman to be executed in Czechoslovakia. Just as she had wanted. In their debut picture, without glossing over the guilt for a brutal crime, directors Tomas Weinreb and Petr Kazda focus in on several key years and moments in the life of a lonely person. The dark and dispassionate drama, composed in part from long, carefully constructed shots, features a powerful performance by Polish actress Michalina Olszanska, whose Hepnarova is just as inscrutable as her act. Premiered at Berlin, this black-and-white film is one of the strongest Czech entries of the year.