The 47th installment of this high powered central European film festival, one of the oldest on the continent, opened a nine day run on June 29 with a spectacular display of fireworks and an appearance by regal British actress Helen Mirren (66) on the red carpet for the opening gala. Mirren was introduced to the crowd at the enrance to the great Hall theater by festival president Jiri Bartosha, himself a prominent Czech actor, as he presented her with a crystal globe statuette in recognition of her overall contribution to the art of film. She was accompanied by her husband director Taylor Hackford (68) who directed her in his 1985 film "White Nights" and subsequently married her.
The broad promenade in front of the Thermal Hotel which is the heart of festival activities was bedecked with billbord size posters
emphasizing this year's American connections. Directly behind Ms. Mirren herself was was a large image of herself striking a thoughtful pose, while further down the line was Alec Baldwin in a large still from the new Woody Allen movie "To Rome with Love". Next to that was a portrait of actress Susan Sarandon who will be simillarly honored on closing night, next to her a poster from the famous Czech movie "Fireman's Ball" by Miloš Forman, a restored print of which will be shown here, and finally a poster for the the opening night film "Good Vibrations" from Ireland. Mirren and Hackford will hold a tandem press conference tomorrow and the film in which she stars, "The Door" will be shown in the big hall the following day. "The Door" is directed by the famous Hungarian helmer, Istvan Szabo and is based on a very popular Hungarian novel by Magda Szabo, no relation to the director. In the film Mirren appears in a totally deglamourized role as the putzfrau and live in maid of a famous woman writer, clearly the alter ego of the author of the writer, in turn played by leading German actress Martina Gedeck. Aside from the two leads most other actors in the film are Hungarian. The third important character, that of the writer's husband, is played by major Hungarian actor Karoly Eperes. The film was shown at the Berlin festival in Februrary in an international English version but is currently running in Hungary in a Hungarian dubbed version. Either way main characters are dubbed in a language different than the one they actually spoke on the set, a device that has become almost standard practice lately for Mister Szabo who seems to have a preference for working with leading international actors, even when the material of the film is completely Hungarian -- perhaps in an effort to become better know in the West. There is no compelling reason he could not have cast Hungrains in all the main roles -- possibly to more authentic effect, especially considering the fact that the base material is a well kniown Hungarian novel. If the director anglicized his name it would come out "Stephen Taylor" which might help. In any case it will be interesting to see How Ms. Mirren handles the challenge of playing a very plain domestic --- a 180 degree reversal from the Queen of England role for which she recieved the best actress Oscar of 2007
by Alex Castillo de Farba