The public did not know about the filming of the new Czech sci-fi for a long time, and the trailers appeared out of nowhere only this spring. But this does not mean that the picture was created at a fast pace, rather the opposite. “Nine years,” Robert Hloz (34) answers when asked how much time has passed since his friend and screenwriter Tomislav Čečka came up with the idea.
“Just finishing the script took several years. We applied for a contribution to the State Cinematography Fund, but we didn’t even believe that they would support it. They wrote that they really like the idea, but that we need to find an experienced producer first,” reveals the director and co-writer of the screenplay, who until now has mostly worked on commercials, and the year at a film school in South Korea most influenced him professionally.
“I approached three producers, they all responded positively and I chose Honza Kallista. Together we became the driving force of this ‘impossible’ project, when our stubbornness did not allow us to give up and at every setback we gritted our teeth and kept going,” he returns to the production of the film, which cost approximately 50 million crowns.
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Hloz in the Point of Renewal created with his colleagues a familiar, yet disturbing near future of a big city in Central Europe, where a new invention has entered people’s lives – a home device connected to a central system, to which the user connects every 48 hours and stores his self in it, basically your soul. If he dies a violent death, in a car accident or other accident, he can be revived again.
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The core of the story is a detective plot in which a policewoman played by Andrea Mohylová uncovers a possible misuse of technology. “When we were writing the script, I asked everyone if they would back up or not. And it was interesting that together it was fifty-fifty. Those who do not yet have children mostly said that they think it is better to live one whole life and that some risk is actually a pleasant thing. But those who are already responsible for others said that they would definitely buy it,” describes Robert Hloz, a married father of an almost two-year-old daughter.
“The reactions of those around us when writing the script were a beacon for us that our subject carries a certain moral conflict, which is something that is not common in Czech films, but I want to have it in mine,” he points out.
From a young age, she is a great lover of the sci-fi genre, which appears sporadically in Czech cinematography, especially in a serious form for adult audiences. Otherwise, of course, we have created great films by Karel Zeman or comedies by Miloš Macourek and Václav Vorlíček, which combine a fantastic world with reality.
“One of my favorite movies is How to Drown Dr. “Mráčka, or The End of Watermen in Bohemia,” he reveals. “It has a wonderful mythology of its own. If Ms. Rowling had written something about water men instead of Harry Potter, I think it could be a similarly fascinating thing with her art.”
Like the famous designs, but cheaper
As he became convinced, it is impossible to bring an ambitious film to life without strong partners, co-producers and without advance promotion at festivals and distribution to cinemas.
He admits that one of the fundamental dilemmas was whether to shoot Bod obnovy in Czech or English. “A lot of people abroad claimed that only in English, but the bigger sharks we talked with, the more they said that we should film it in Czech, because no one had seen Czech science fiction and we would be unique in that.”
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The budget of 50 million crowns is converted to about two million dollars, which is an amount that in Hollywood usually does not even cover the weight of the leading actor. Despite this, viewers who saw Recovery Point were reminded of famous films such as Blade Runner, Minority Report, Equilibrium, Source Code or Measured Time, which also show a world touched by breakthrough life-changing technology. However, these are works whose budget cannot be compared to our conditions at all.
“All the films mentioned were definitely a subliminal inspiration, but we knew we couldn’t top them or copy them. But when people say that Bod obnovy is the Czech Blade Runner, it’s an incredible honor for us, and we really didn’t even hope that it would work,” he is pleased.
“We tried to make it spectacular, but it’s a different level of spectacular. In our movie, spaceships don’t destroy planets. I don’t think that there should only be big spectacles in cinemas, but also original films,” adds the director, who studied audiovisual production at the Faculty of Multimedia Communications of the Tomáš Bata University in Zlín.
He saw movies through a keyhole
Robert Hloz subconsciously determined his profession when he was secretly playing Star Wars on video. His parents weren’t exactly into science fiction, and actually watching TV at home was rather a rarity. “Instead, I read a lot, but at the same time I was attracted by the sounds of those movies my parents were watching. I saw several of them through the keyhole of the living room door,” he recalls with a smile. “The more they denied me the film, the more I wanted to see it. This was also due to the social pressure of classmates at school, who boasted that they had seen Gladiator, for example, and I pretended that I had seen it too.”
Then one day a friend lent him an old “Véháeska” with a poor-quality copy of the oldest part of Star Wars, after which he later watched the following two episodes. “When my mom picked up my younger brother at daycare, I had a 20-minute window when no one was home and I could watch whatever I wanted. This is how I watched the films piecemeal every day for maybe a year,” he recalls. The final scenes colored by the moving music of John Williams affected him.
“I felt such inner beauty from the story, which was terribly strong, and I promised myself that I wanted to pass this joy on to people.” However, at the FAMU admissions, director Věra Chytilová turned him away at the door, saying that he was still too young and about life He knows nothing. When he tried it a second time, he was already studying in the second year in Zlín, he had the feeling that he was doing well with the committee and that the cantors liked the short films he could show off. The decision not to accept therefore crushed him. “Then who will they take there? Who wants to make movies more than me?” he desperately asked himself.
With the passage of time, he does not hold a grudge against anyone, because the most important thing was still waiting for him. He interspersed his studies in Zlín with one year at a film school in Seoul, South Korea, where he got there as part of an international student program. At the same time, he decided that he would give as much energy as he could to the projects he chooses – just for the reason that he could process his rejection at FAMU. “Korea then opened the door to big projects for me. If they had taken me to FAMU, maybe we wouldn’t even be sitting here now,” he reflects.
Korean film by a Czech director
Even before leaving for Korea, he caught the eye with the short film Mlýn (2011) about settling old scores between two men. He managed to get Norbert Lichy and Dalimil Klapka to play the main roles. “Norbert is a perfect person, helping students was important to him and I am eternally grateful to him for going ahead and sacrificing a lot of personal comfort,” he comments on the role of priest.
Dalimila Klapka, who in his older age was mainly devoted to dubbing, looked out for him precisely on the basis of his voice, which in our country speaks, for example, Inspector Columbo. The interest of the young director surprised the actor, but he accepted the offered role of a hermit who guards wind farms.
At FAMU admissions, director Věra Chytilová turned him away at the door, saying he was too young
“The action takes place in a big, wide field where it’s windy, it started snowing there and it was rougher than we imagined. Mr. Klapka was already in years, but he suffered with us. He said that since we’re here, it has to be done and we mustn’t give up,” Hloz recalls. “When he died last year, the whole staff and I wrote to each other about what a shame it was.”
His “Korean” film Numbers (2012), which already shows a fondness for the sci-fi genre, was even more popular. It is a romantic story of two people in a neon night city where a man and a woman meet with the same strange ability to see different numbers above each person. It was screened at many world festivals and won several awards.
Already after his arrival, he knew that he wanted to include the bustling capital city of Seoul in some picture. That is, only after the clash with the different culture and demands of the cantors has endured. “When I studied there, there were about a hundred film schools in the country, the competition was incredible and the pressure to succeed was enormous. I imagined that I would travel there a lot, but it didn’t happen at all.’
In a land where yes means no
He chose South Korea because he had long been fascinated by the cinematography there, which supplies the whole of Asia and penetrated the consciousness of the Western audience with, for example, the popular series The Squid Game or the drama Parasite, which also dominated the 2019 Oscars.
“Koreans have a lot of politeness in them and they don’t know how to say no. When I was shooting Numbers, I needed to arrange a lot of things, and when I asked them if it was possible, they said yes to everything. But when it comes down to it, you find that it meant no,” he describes the differences in the colors.
According to him, a foreigner must learn to distinguish very sensitively when yes really means yes, which is debilitating. Although I love the country, it requires mental armor for a person who is brought up in a very honest environment where everyone has a cut mouth,” he compares it to the Czech Republic. “After that year, I was really looking forward to someone kicking me and telling me, no, it’s just not possible and get out of here!” he says with a laugh.
The success of the student film Numbers had an unexpected consequence in that Robert Hloz began to hear from advertising productions. Although he wouldn’t have thought of it himself, he realized that he really liked some TV commercials, so he dived into unknown waters and during the preparation of his first feature film, he worked mainly as an advertising director. “I hate stupid ads. This is evil for humanity. I try to make them fun, so that the viewer doesn’t switch, but instead enjoys them,” he said.
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The Kaplické library also materialized
When Point of Restoration was initially offered to the world, the possibility of shooting it in Asia was also on the table. “But somehow it didn’t make sense to us. We were afraid that if we sent the script to China, they would shoot the film before we did,” he explains.
In the end, the creative team decided to keep the setting in Central Europe. It was filmed in Prague, in and around Bratislava, and in several locations in Poland. The world premiere of the film was then held in South Korea, followed by the Czech one at the International Film Festival in Karlovy Vary. President Petr Pavel also visited one of the screenings amid great media interest.
The audience’s attention certainly did not escape the variously modified cars of the domestic Škoda car manufacturer, including prototypes that it willingly lent from its museum’s depository. In one shot, the unrealized national library alias Octopus by Jan Kaplický appears, to which the widow of the famous architect Elišek Kaplický gave her consent. However, the idea that she would actually stand up in the end, even to the year 2041, when the film takes place, really belongs in the science fiction genre…
“I’m working on a few other themes, some are also from the near future and are kind of a continuation of the Recovery Point, but with completely new technology. At the same time, I like mythology and such fantastic fairy-tales,” suggests Robert Hloz, where he might go next. “But at the same time, I want to explore the moral dilemmas that the heroes have to solve and that also say something about us.”