The Karlovy Vary film festival kicked off on Friday night with the much-anticipated world premiere of Anthropoid, a big-budget movie starring Hollywood actors that recreates the daring assassination of Nazi governor Reinhard Heydrich in Prague in 1942. The gala event was attended by the movie’s stars and its director Sean Ellis.
The powerful Anthropoid recreates the daring assassination of Nazi governor Reinhard Heydrich in 1942 in an operation led by Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík, Czechoslovak parachutists who had been dropped from the UK into occupied Bohemia and Moravia.
The film’s director Sean Ellis told a news conference following the world premiere that after years of studying the history, he finally had to decide on his own version of what happened – and craft a narrative accordingly.
“When you make a historical piece you’re a detective in some respects. You’re sort of getting all of these different witnesses together and reading different viewpoints of the same event, so obviously you get different perspectives… As somebody who is going to author a new version, you have to go with what you feel would be the best representation for what is a piece of entertainment, or a drama, not a documentary.”
UK actor Toby Jones plays resistance leader Jan Zelenka-Hajský in Anthropoid. He said such historical movies needed to do more than explore the facts, if they want to reach international audiences.
“Often films serve as calls to remember specific events, and this event is obviously important to the Czech people, but they also serve as archetypal stories for the world. If you’re looking for themes for films, you’re also looking for very particular stories. But you’re also looking for an archetypal story that the world can relate to and empathise with.”
Movie star Jamie Dornan, who plays Jan Kubiš, was asked about the process of making the film alongside local actors in Prague, who would have known the story of Operation Anthropoid for much of their lives.
“It’s a lovely aspect of doing the film, getting to work with Czech actors. Obviously the story means something more to them than to the likes of Cillian [Murphy, who plays Gabčík] and Toby and I, but by the time we started making the movie the story was close to our hearts as well. I hope we were respectful to it.”