Leaving / Odcházení

Dir. Václav Havel

“Leaving” is the feature film version of the Vaclav Havel’s play, the draught of which he had written in the late ‘80s. At that time the play wasn’t completed since the author had been driven away with something more important: the former dissident, persecuted writer and a political prisoner took the helm of the Velvet Revolution, which ended years of Communistic regime in Czechoslovakia and brought him into the chair of the president of the Republic. But the demonstrative theatrical architecture of the film bears some more profound rationale. If, as Shakespere states, all the world’s a stage, politics are stage twice.

"Leaving” is the seriocomical grotesque or rather political pamphlet. No wonder the plot is loaded with lots of citations and allusions at the classical plays – from “The Cherry Orchard” to “King Lear” and even “Hamlet”. The story is focused around Vilém Rieger (Josef Abrham) - the newly dismissed chancellor of an unnamed country (though one shouldn’t look for any similarity between the protagonist and the author). The scene is laid at the premises of his beautiful country residence in the cherry orchard. Rieger, humiliated by sad circumstances of resignation, is told to make a crucial choice: either leave his comfortable state-owned villa or publicly support his successor, Vlastik Klein – his most hated political opponent.

The main hero is surrounded by whimsical figures of his family members, servants, the former secretary and a couple of ubiquitous paparazzi, who play not the last role in the chancellor’s future.

Among the brilliant cast Havel's wife, actress Dagmar Havlova must be singled out as his screen wife Irene. Though 74-years old Havel is a debutant in filmmaking, he is not an occasional person in cinema. The Havel family is closely connected with Czech film; his uncle Miloš built the famous Barrandov film studios, and his grandfather opened Lucerna Palace the first permanent cinema-theatre in Prague.

By the way, Havel says he won’t stand behind the camera anymore; but in this film he appears in a funny prankish cameo, summing up the message of the picture, which can be in other words put as follows: what frustrate the lives of those no longer in office may be less the loss of power than the loss of a sense of purpose, that is human impotence at finding oneself.

Nina Tsyrkun