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Film: Leaving (Odcházení)

(This article expired 17.11.2013.)

On November 17, at 2 pm, the National Gallery of Art will screen Václav Havel's film Leaving (Odcházení) in the East Building Auditorium. The day also marks the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.

Václav Havel (1936–2011)—poet, playwright, and cherished first president of the Czech Republic—returned to the stage in 2008 with the new play Leaving (Odcházení). He adaptedthis absurdist comedy, in which an ex-government official tries to reenter his former life, for the screen. As the action unfolds on a rural estate, comparisons to Havel's own life become clear: "Before the 1989 Revolution, I had an idea for a character like King Lear, who loses power. It might have been the influence of the generation of 1968—the people who had been party members . . . after '68 they were thrown out and started to live ordinary lives, and they pretended that they didn’t mind, but in fact they did"—Václav Havel. (2011, Czech with subtitles, DCP, 94 minutes)

National Gallery of Art
East Building Auditorium
4th and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20565

Admission is free. | No reservations are required.


2011, 95 min., in Czech with English subtitles
DIR: Václav Havel

The film maps the last two days of Rieger’s stay in a villa, before he is finally evicted. Those present are chiefly the residents of the villa, the secretaries making an inventory of the contents, and visitors from outside. They are either Vlasta and Albín or Jack and Bob, who are preparing an interview, or Bea. With each succeeding scene, the situation gradually goes from bad to worse. Irena loses her respect for Rieger, particularly after she catches him with Bea in the gazebo. Vlasta not only goes back on her proposal to offer a roof but even proposes a change to Rieger’s will. The journalists turn out to be in the pay of the gutter press, which won’t print Rieger’s replies to political questions, but focuses solely on his private life. Therefore, his departure from public life is cast in a disreputable light.

About the Director:

Havel's Leaving is the directorial debut of Václav Havel. Besides filmmaking, Havel has worn many hats-- playwright, essayist, poet, dissident, and politician. He was one of the writers of Charter 77, a document that criticized the communist government for failing to implement human rights provisions. After the Velvet Revolution, Havel became the tenth and last President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic. He later visited the U.S. and gave a speech to the joint session of Congress. In his speech, he stated, “The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and in human responsibility.” Havel received numerous state decorations, honorary doctorates, and international awards, including the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom. After leaving office, he continued to work in human rights, creating the Forum 2000 Foundation. Havel passed away on December 18, 2011.

The theatre adaptation won the Alfred Radok Award for Best Play (2009).