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Václav Havel’s Film Does Not Fare Well

Havel: ‘Leaving’ is all about change

Havel has fulfilled his dream of becoming a director. But the script has been criticized for being flat and obvious, and the actors stiff.

by Gregory Feifer

It’s the latest career twist of the internationally renowned playwright and ex-dissident who led the Velvet Revolution that toppled communism in 1989. This week moviegoers in Prague attended the premiere of former Czech President Václav Havel’s first feature film.

“Leaving” is about the former chancellor of an unnamed country facing the loss of power after stepping down. He’s threatened with losing his comfortable state villa if he doesn’t publicly support his successor and arch-rival.

But Havel, who stepped down as Czech president in 2003 to make way for his real-life arch-rival successor, Václav Klaus, insists the film isn’t autobiographical. Never mind that the villain’s derogatory sounding name, Vlastik Klein, is strikingly similar to Klaus’s.

Havel says the film isn’t about a particular person or act of leaving, but a general exploration of constant change in life.

“The protagonist can’t handle change well, he stops functioning and his whole world collapses around him,” he said in an interview. “He responds in the worst way possible, adapting to a subordinate position that serves the new state of affairs.”