“What is he looking at?” I thought as my professor stared intently out of one of the massive windows, which define so many of the FAMU classrooms. I say this rather metaphorically. I knew what was outside; it was the longest river in the Czech Republic named Vltava, which bordered the magnificent ridge known as Petřín (both depicted in a picture below). It was an impressive sight. Still, from the gleam in my professor’s eyes and the truth of his words, I felt his actions were beyond simple admiration for the view. He seemed to be waltzing around in his head, speaking through his heart and his soul. The lecture was unscripted, honest, and informative. And how refreshing…the words flowed and weaved, much the shape of the river outside.
This was the Czech way. And I like it.
It dawned on me. Is this why so many people in the Czech Republic smoked cigarettes? To appear more pensive and furthermore, to attain an aura of mysterious contemplation? I can see the allure (but I’m no smoker). I heard a joke once how it is easy to judge a tobacco-less loner staring into the distance at a social function. But if that man were smoking a cigarette, yet still alone, he would appear as a distinguished philosopher. No wonder this city seems to be crawling with such bright minds…
But besides its terrible health consequences, cigarettes have often been used as a symbol of luxury, individual freedom, personal reflection, and as an aid against hardship (at least it is in film). It is natural then that a society so recently repressed by war and politics would indulge in vectors so closely tied to self-expression and cathartic release. In fact, the smoking metaphor seems spot on for this city and its people. Prague appears to still be redefining itself. Without the presence of tobacco, the landscape, the architecture, and the people seem to personifying a sort of cinematic beauty and curious inexplicability.
I’m observational. I like to pass the time by taking a moment to absorb my surroundings and try to understand them. When I’m packed into a crowded tram on the way to school or stuck in the grocery checkout line, I think, “What lies beneath these stoic faces and often tired eyes? What are you saying when you chatter in a cryptic, yet beautiful language? And what do you think of me?”
It is a pleasure then, to sit for a few hours a day and absorb the lectures taught by compassionate Czech mentors. They help fill the gaps that are created in daily life while living in a foreign country. The talks are full of new perspectives, harsh and enlightening truths, and best of all, the secrets of film.
Like I said before, this is the Czech way…
Stay tuned for videos, more pictures, and a detailed excursion to the hidden contemporary art spots around Prague!
Created by Brendan Gates (Washington University-St. Louis)
CET Film Production in Prague, Fall 2012
Brendan takes us behind the scenes of his group’s short film. Check out how they work with Czech actors to create their desired film.