Film Scouts Diaries

2003 Karlovy Vary Film Festival Diaries
CZECHING A FEW STEPS IN KARLOVY VARY --- Step 1 – Kafka Is Alive and Well

by Henri Béhar

Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, July 4 -- The Karlovy Vary Film Festival is alive and well and kicking ass at 38. More people come from around the world, more A-films are being shown, a film mart is developing fast -- all of which, even in these politically shifty times, is making it an increasingly not-to-be-missed film event. It is pretty rare now, come early summer, not to bump at your local airport into someone also heading for the festival.

The plane from Paris being delayed for some reason or other (no explanation, as usual), a whole bunch of reporters spent "quality" time at Charles de Gaulle's new terminal trying to make sense of the 200+ films we were about to see (or try and avoid). Despite many expressos and soft drinks, most of us fell asleep before the plane took off and woke up only as we landed in Prague.

Driving from Prague to Karlovy Vary, a hundred miles west toward the German border, is always kind of fun. The scenery keeps changing from year to year and Czechs sometimes drive more idiosyncratically than Italians on speed. Arriving in Karlovy Vary, however, is to enter Dreamland. The old Carlsbad architecture is still there, most of it being actively renovated – a sure sign, perhaps, that the prospect of soon joining the European Union is already creating turmoil in the real estate industries. The stately mansions that once welcomed imperial guests from all over Eastern Europe now also house the visiting stars (la nouvelle aristocracy, perhaps?) and often have their own screening rooms.

Some things don't change, though. A western guest was given room 1123 at the Thermal Hotel, where most of the event takes place. He did what he was supposed to do: he went up to the 11th floor but when he stepped out of the elevator and looked at the signs, he realized there was no room beyond 1122. He still walked to the end of the corridor, discovered there was a room 1125 which was only a shower. After much toing-and-froing, he discovered his room sandwiched between rooms 1110 and 1112. Apparently, room 1124 has yet to be found.

His bemused comment: "Now I understand why Franz Kafka could only come from here."

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