March 2017, arsenal cinema

Helena Třeštíková retrospective

MARCELA, 2006

The filmography of the renowned, award-winning Czech director Helena Třeštíková contains over 50 documentaries. Since the mid-1970s, she has been making portraits – often long-term observations – of married couples, personalities in Czech history and also of social outsiders for both television and cinema that are as discreet as they are impressive. Třeštíková will attend our retrospective of her formidable oeuvre, which revolves around relationships between people, social and political upheavals and also the potentials and boundaries of documentary.

Třeštíková's relationship to the protagonists of her films is marked by an empathetic attitude, a non-judgmental openness and curiosity towards people. Her role is that of a listener and often of a confidante. She is never visible in the picture but sometimes can be heard asking a question. Usually, however, she simply listens, letting people talk about their lives, their desires and dreams as well as their dashed hopes and the difficulties. Her point of departure is always the subjective perspective of those being portrayed. The intimacy that develops leads not infrequently to sometimes painful testimony, although Třeštíková never crosses the boundary into voyeurism. In her "time-lapse" films, as she calls them, she collects material over years and even decades that re-create the story of a life through montage. We literally see time pass. This is particularly clear in PRIVATE UNIVERSE, a long-term observation over 37 years of a family in which the father, Petr, watches footage in a studio of the past and thus retrospectively brings his family's story into the present. The political upheavals as well as historical events, such as the triumph of Soviet space travel, are present in the television which in the background provides the context in which people live their lives.

MALLORY (Czech Republic 2015, 2.3., guest: Helena Třeštíková & 19.3.) When Helena Třeštíková met her in 2002, Mallory already had a long history of drug addiction. The young woman managed to stay clean after the birth of her son. During the following 13 years, Třeštíková accompanied Mallory through a life marked by numerous problems and setbacks, as she sought her place in society and despite all the obstacles managed to make use of her experiences to become the person who had once helped her. This is an impressive portrait of a woman who gives an unadorned insight into the struggles of her life with great openness and skills of expression.

SOUKROMÝVESMÍR (Private Universe, Czech Republic 2012, 3.3., guest: Helena Třeštíková & 11.3.) Třeštíková's longest long-term study spans 37 years, beginning in 1974 with the birth of her friend Jana's first child. Over the following years and decades, we see Jana and her husband Petr raise three children, renovate a house in the country and weather personal and political storms. The ordinary stations of family life are depicted: birthdays, the first day of school, visits to the doctor, buying a car, looking for a job, teenage rebellion. On television, over and over again, appear the constants of Czechoslovakian (and Czech) society - Karel Gott in different incarnations or politicians making the same New Year speeches. The family portrait layers time: While the father Petr watches old recordings, he evaluates the past from today's perspective and also introduces views of the past with diary entries.

HITLER, STALIN A JÁ(Hitler, Stalin and I, Czech Republic 2001, 4. & 13.3.) The brutality of the 20th century incorporated in one person: Heda Margolius-Kovaly was born into a Jewish family in Prague in 1919. Soon after her marriage to the lawyer Rudolf Margolius, the two were sent to the ghetto of Łodz and then deported to Auschwitz. They both survived and returned to Prague. Rudolf Margolius joined the Communist Party and became the Czech minister for trade in 1948. In 1952, he was accused of conspiracy in a show trial and executed. A life of humiliation and privations began for "national traitor's" widow and their son. A combination of interviews and archive material form the foundation of a life in the shadow of two totalitarian systems which was only possible thanks to an unshakeable will to survive.

ZKÁZA KRÁSOU (Doomed Beauty,Jakub Hejna, Helena Třeštíková,Czech Republic 2015, 4. & 13.3.) In the 1930s, Lída Baarová (born in 1914) was a budding Czech actress. The UFA signed her up in 1934 so she came to Berlin to later become Joseph Goebbels' mistress. When Helena Třeštíková visited her towards the end of her life in her flat in Salzburg, she encountered a lonely, elderly woman. She died in 2000. Because of her affair with a high-ranking Nazi, she was accused of collaboration and imprisoned for a few months. Then she emigrated. In the film, her memories are combined with archive footage - newsreels and her own films - testifying to an era when a young actress was crushed between world history and her personal decisions.

MANŽELSKÉETUDY: ZUZANA A STANISLAV (Marriage Stories: Zuzana and Stanislav, ČSSR 1987) & MANŽELSKÉETUDY PO DVACETI LETECH: ZUZANA A STANISLAV (Marriage Stories 20 Years Later – Zuzana and Stanislav, Czech Republic 2006, 5. & 17.3.) For her "Marriage Stories" series that began in the 1980s, Třeštíková accompanied six randomly selected newly-married couples over several years. The series was such a hit with audiences that it continued into the 2000s.
Zuzana (18) and Stanislav (19) got married when they were already expecting their first child. Because of a shortage of apartments they were forced to stay at home with their respective sets of parents, several kilometers apart, during the first years of their marriage. When they finally moved in with each other, they began to realize what different temperaments and interests they had. They were both interested in the question of happiness and how to live life correctly but each answered it in a different manner.

MARCELA (Czech Republic 2006, 7.3., Introduction: Barbara Wurm & 18.3.) Marcela and her husband Jiri are one of the couples portrayed in the Marriage Stories series. Like many of the others, their marriage suffers because of the very close living conditions. They separate while arguing over their daughter. Marcela has a son with another man, who also does not want to stay with her. Even though her desires are modest - she would like an apartment that is big enough, a job, health and perhaps love - she always has to start the struggle anew. Caught between profound pain and small moments of help, the story unfolds of a woman who has to cope with numerous setbacks and each time risks falling into despair.

KATKA (Czech Republic 2009, 8. & 10.3.)At the start of the film, Katka is a cheerful enough 19-year-old with plans for the future and a desire for children, but she is in rehab having begun to take drugs at the age of 16 as her rebellion against ordered life. Fourteen years later, her body and soul are worn by ongoing drug use. She does not have the necessary strength to give up drugs even when she gives birth to a daughter, who goes into care. Katka is in a spiral of self-destruction and seemingly helpless against the forces with surround her - heroin, a well-meaning but unhelpful medical establishment, and a vain search for love and recognition. An unadorned and raw portrait of a life as an ongoing struggle.

MANŽELSKÉETUDY: IVANA A VÁCLAV (Marriage Stories – Ivana and Václav, ČSSR 1987) & MANŽELSKÉETUDY PO DVACETI LETECH: IVANA A VÁCLAV (Marriage Stories 20 Years Later – Ivana and Václav, Czech Republic 2006, 10. & 17.3.) When they marry, Ivana and Václav are both ambitious students of architecture with big plans. A rich, full life lies ahead: They're going to have five children, build a house, establish a firm - and maintain their marriage. They have the necessary verve and optimism although they always face tough tests.

RENÉ(Czech Republic 2008, 11. & 15.3.) Since his early youth, René has countered the fact that his parents neglected him in childhood by consistently rejecting society and its norms and rules. He keeps ending up in jail for petty theft and con tricks - it's the only place that offers him some security. A middle-class life is beyond his powers of imagination: "All I can do is steal", he says. Over decades, the director Helena Třeštíková becomes the only constant in his life and his most important confidante - she supports his gift for writing and helps him to publish. He also steals from her. René radically questions the relationship between Třeštíková the director and him as an "object of study", forcing her and her manner of filmmaking to a painful limit.

VOJTA LAVIČKA: NAHORU A DOLŮ(Vojta Lavička: Ups and Downs, Czech Republic 2013, 12. & 20.3.)Helena Třeštíková met the 16-year-old Roma child Vojta Lavička in the mid-1990s. He went on to become a successful violinist, activist, radio and television host, who fought on both a private and personal level against prejudice and rampant racism against Roma. The opening of Czech society did not bring many advantages for the Roma community. Although many members of his family and community left the country, he decided to stay in Prague with his girlfriend and their son.

ŽIVOT S KAŠPAREM (Life with Jester, Czech Republic 2013, 14. & 18.3.) Jakub Špalek is a theater manager, director and actor, who leads a life where the private and political are inseparable. When he was still a student at the theater academy, he became one of the main protagonists of the Velvet Revolution of autumn 1989. He and his fellow students went from the stage to the streets, calling for political change. Later on, he fulfilled a life-long dream by founding the independent Kašpár theater in Prague. Třeštíková documented his private, political and professional life over 23 years, a life shaped by the discrepancy between acting for the collective and fulfilling individual desires. (mg/al)

In cooperation with the Czech Center in Berlin. Thanks to Christina Frankenberg.

arsenal cinema: Helena Třeštíková retrospective

07:00 pm Cinema 1


Hitler, Stalin a já

Hitler, Stalin a já Hitler, Stalin and I
Czech Republic 2001
Digital file OV/EnS 56 min

arsenal cinema: FilmDocument

07:00 pm Cinema 2


Der Reifenschneider und seine Frau

Schwierigkeiten beim Dokumentarfilmmachen

The History of Documentary Film at the dffb II: Lecturer Klaus Wildenhahn
*Der Reifenschneider und seine Frau
Roland Hehn, Klaus Wildenhahn FRG 1968 16 mm 68 min
*Schwierigkeiten beim Dokumentarfilmmachen
Michael Busse, Susanne Lahay, Thomas Mitscherlich
FRG 1969 16 mm 28 min

Introduced by Frederik Lang
arsenal cinema: Helena Třeštíková retrospective

08:15 pm Cinema 1


Zkáza krásou

Zkáza krásou Doomed Beauty Jakub Hejna, Helena Třeštíková
Czech Republic 2015
DCP OV/EnS 95 min