Interviews:

Forman,
Milos

Goldstucker,
Eduard

Yevtushenko,
Yevgeni



     
   


INTERVIEW WITH MILOS FORMAN - 18/1/97

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INT: And what was the reality in the society...?

MF: (Overlap) And the result was absolutely nil. It doesn't affect it at all. Do you think that it made, you know, young people more sort of... ethically correct? Of course not. It's ridiculous, you know, because films and literature just reflects, just mirrors the society, it doesn't cause the evils, you know.

INT: So how would you describe [the] lifestyle of the society in the Sixties in Czechoslovakia?

MF: All the Sixties were complicated, you know. On the one hand it was funny too, you know; on the other hand it was cruel, you know. The communists are so cruel, because they impose one taste on everybody, on everything, and who doesn't comply with their teachings and with their ideology, is very soon labeled pervert, you know, or whatever they want you call it, or counterrevolutionary or whatever. And then the censorship itself, that's not the worst evil. The worst evil is - and that's the product of censorship - is the self-censorship, because that twists spines, that destroys my character because I have to think something else and say something else, I have to always control myself. I am stopping to being honest, I am becoming hypocrite - and that's what they wanted, they wanted everybody to feel guilty, they were, you know... And also they were absolutely brilliant in one way, you know: they knew how effective is not to punish somebody who is guilty; what Communist Party members could afford to do was mind-boggling: they could do practically anything they wanted - steal, you know, lie, whatever. What was important [was] that they punished if you're innocent, because that puts everybody, you know, puts fear in everybody.

INT: Also, artists were kind of sucked into the committees. Why artists were so much member of several kind of committees and controlled everything from the committees? Could you explain it and describe it how it was?

MF: Because that's the best way, that's the only way to totally control them, you know. First of all, whoever didn't want to be a member of this association or the other association, was branded, you know, like a dangerous individualist, you know, infected by the Western decadence, you know. So everybody joined. And everything is controlled and everybody is a member of some committee, because then their watchdogs placed in the committees can control everything, what this person says or how this person think(s), you know. It was... (Sighs) it was just ridiculous.

INT: Did you consciously reject communism while you were in Czechoslovakia, or did it come later to you?

MF: Listen, you know what was interesting? You know, in February 1948, our school was on its way from the skiing vacations back to Podebrady, and we were at the railway station waiting like three or four hours for another train in Madaboleslav, and suddenly from the loudspeakers there is talking Klement Gottwald, declaring, you know, the communist take-over of the country. The most fascinating thing for us was... I was in the... you know, my generation and lower - I was 16, but there were 15- or 14-year-olds - without saying anything to each other we knew that this is a con job done on the country, on the nation; while 17-years-old started to applaud, 18-years-old started to sing socialist, you know, "hurrah" (kind of?) songs. It was very interesting, because they obviously reached a certain kind of maturity which was still so na´ve that they really didn't know, which we didn't reach yet [but] somehow we knew that this is absolutely ridiculous, what's happening.

INT: Did you feel it, this kind of situation, a few years later or several years later still in the Sixties, when you were making your films? Were you conscious of that you are working in the society that is so controlled, that is communist society? How would you explain this? (Overlap) Sorry, while you were working [on] your films, because your films were mainly comedies, but still expressing the situation that was in the society, so when you were making your Blonde in Love or Firemen's Ball, were you conscious that you want to show what is wrong in communist society?

MF: You didn't want to be conscious of that, you know, you didn't want,... First of all, to defend my work, I had to believe that I am doing a totally silly, stupid, innocent comedy. You convince yourself - you know, "No, this is not political at all, what I'm talking about! I just want people to have fun. And look, she's such a (.?.), she's in love, and love is noble," you know. It was... it was like that, you know.

INT: So what was the importance of humor for you?

MF: Humor was not important only for me, humor was important for this nation for centuries, to survive, you know. It's...

INT: Could you elaborate a little bit?

MF: Well... I can't elaborate. Ask somebody smarter to elaborate on that.

INT: ... Can you describe...

(Interruption. B/g talk.)

INT: How did you and your friends look at America in the Sixties?

MF: Ah-, with great envy. I think everybody dreamt somehow to make a film in Hollywood, you know. No, you must realize one thing: that one, the most important thing was... in that times was radio,... you know, was BBC, was Radio Free Europe, but mainly American forces in Europe, Billy Scanover playing every day for one hour Elvis Presley, Bill Hailey and the whole music, you know. That's all what we were listening to, and that's all what, you know... And of course, when, you know, you are listening to, you know, to Bill Hailey and Elvis Presley, and you love it, and then a stern face on the Czech television tells you, "These apes escaping from the jungle - they are representing the pride of humanity?" you know, and you knew that... finally you lost total, total, you know, respect.

INT: You could already travel in the Sixties, so what was your impression from the Western culture, American culture?

MF: Oh, well, I was fortunate that I spent six months in thanks to the Alfred Radok Laterna magica, on which I collaborated in Brussels world's fair, and that was for me probably the most important period when it comes to learn what Western culture is, because I had the chance to go every day to the American Pavilion and I saw Ella Fitzgerald, I saw Harold Robbins, I saw American theatre, I saw, you know, the American exhibit. Otherwise, you know, this feverish quick, when they send you for two days to some festival, had nothing to do with culture. All you wanted is to count, you know, if you have one pound or one pound fifty and how much things which symbolize freedom for you, can you buy. It was not books; it was, for example, Heinz ketchup, you know... things which were the symbols for freedom, because we couldn't afford more. Because...you know, they were stealing even from themselves, the communists. It was so funny. I went ... with the film Loves of a Blonde, I was going to the Venice Film Festival together with the star of the film, (Hanichka Brekova?), and we had to even drag our luggage from the train to this bus, boat, you know, and then to drag the luggage for 50 meters; then we come into the hotel which is the best hotel, because the festival paid for it, on the Lido, you know, Excelsior Hotel. We are coming (Laughs) there, and there is this Mr. Kaschik or whatever was his name, you know, the director of Film Expo - "Oh, come, come, come!" and almost as if, you know, doing something secret, he gave us, like everyone, like $3. Then of course, we knew that he's getting... you know, I don't know, $40 for us, for each of us every day. I don't know 40 - maybe 30, I forgot the exact number. But he gave us 3; he put in his pocket 27. You know, it was this kind of ridiculous things, which is just so humiliating, you know.