On my last visit to Karlovy Vary a few years ago, a Czech journalist told me that the Hotel Thermal, that gigantic, ugly and at the same time iconic concrete block in the heart of Karlovy Vary and also the international film festival, was counting heavily. The substance of the building is actually in need of complete renovation. If you happen to stroll through the underground car park of the thermal baths, you know what your colleague is talking about: rust, damaged building structures and puddles of water wherever you look. Sooner or later the “Karlovy Vary International Film Festival“(in short: KVIFF) definitely have to look for a different festival center, possibly also a different venue. But after almost two years of Covid-19-related abstinence, I was seldom so happy to see this concrete block from afar when entering the picturesque Karlovy Vary In the midst of this somehow crazy, almost surreally pretty backdrop, the thermal again this year forms the heart and soul in which the thousands of enthusiastic festival goers cavort, in the great hall of the thermal (in which I see some of the most memorable Screenings of my life) enjoy one film after another or cheer for the stars on the red carpet around the thermal or settle down in one of the numerous beer tents. Karlovy Vary is always great fun besides the film festival – and that is felt no different this year despite the effects of Covid-19.
55. KVIFF: opening and competition outlook
There was of course a bit of normality and many reasons to celebrate at the grand opening ceremony, which was again initiated with a short and beautifully staged show program before the festival’s first big star guest was finally honored after the obligatory program presentations and speeches : None less than Sir Michael Caine gave himself the honor and enchanted the completely felt large hall of the Hotel Thermal with his short and charming acceptance speech. In terms of film, the festival played it safe, at the same time with a very logical opening film: “Zápotek” pays homage to the legendary Czech runner Emil Zátopek, who was the first and so far only runner at the Helsinki Olympic Games in 1982 to go gold in the 5,000 disciplines m, 10,000 m and in the marathon. Basically, “Zátopek” is a nicely produced and well played, but at the same time very good and somewhat too long film biopic that one could expect in something like that. At the same time, the hall in the Thermal was rarely so full for an opening film: no wonder, after all, the film tells a feel-good success story that fits in perfectly with the revival of such a film festival.
The opening gave the starting signal for over a week of colorful festival activity: Between August 20 and 28 celebrate that Karlovy Vary International Film Festival again films and the cinema in several sections. As always, the main focus of the festival is on the big competition: A total of 12 films cavort here, competing for the coveted crystal globe and a decent prize money. Extraordinary: There are two German representatives in the international selection. Director Lisa Bierwirth staged in “The Prince“the fragile love story between Monika and Joseph – a curator and a refugee from the Congo.” The Prince “will celebrate its grand premiere on August 21st in the great hall of the Thermal Hotel. Heil “(2015) Dieter Brüggemann presents his latest film”Nope“Also in the competition of the KVIFF 2021 and this time takes on the unfulfillable wishes of the” ThirtySomethings “.
55. KVIFF: Go East | Johnny Depp and Ethan Hawke are other star guests
Another competition of the 55th KVIFF is dedicating the festival to Eastern European filmmaking: In the “East of the West“-Series you can always find exciting film treasures, for example from the Balkans. But of course the big names that caused a sensation at the Berlinale and the Cannes Film Festival are not missing in Karlsbad either: With”Memoria “ from Apichatpong Weerasethakul, “Vortex “ by Gaspar Noé or “Mr. Bachmann and his class“Several festival favorites can be found in the” Horizons “section of the festival. Retro movie fans should definitely get the beautiful “A Tribute to Film Foundation” retrospective in which you can see, for example, new prints of masterpieces such as “A Bright Summer Day” by Edward Yang, “A Woman Under the Influence” by John Cassavetes or “The Breaking Point” by Michael Curtiz.
At the end of the festival, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival allows itself some controversy again: Less with a star guest Ethan Hawke, which received an award at the festival, and Paul Schrader’s “First Reformed”, in which Hawke undoubtedly delivers one of his most complex and impressive acting performances. No, of course it’s about star guest Johnny Deppwhose award at the renowned San Sebastian Film Festival has already caused criticism. Perhaps Depp’s award is also another expression of the crumbling festival facade: Although the festival is believed to keep out of the controversy and only wants to bring the actor Johnny Depp closer to the enthusiastic festival audience, a few cracks and nasty headaches provide the signal effect then clearly on the outside. At the same time, it is clear: Here, every decision is not designed for any PR people or producers, but above all for the film-loving audience. A “Karlovy Vary Film Festival” without an audience is completely unimaginable.
55th KVIFF: A public festival that deserves the name
This is another reason why the Karlovy Vary Film Festival has become more than just an insider tip in the festival calendar of avid film-goers, after all it combines the greatest advantages of all major film events: a great and varied program, interested viewers and real stars to touch – and at extremely affordable prices Ticket prices. In contrast to the “big competitor festivals” in Cannes and Berlin, the Karlovy Vary Film Festival has always stayed very close to its audience: For the equivalent of just 2.50 euros (and that has been constant for years at this price) you can get it here a coveted film ticket – the “big ones” are welcome to cut something.