Kapr Code (2022)

Kapr Code (2022)

Movie Details

Kapr Code (2022)
Director: Lucie Králová
Cast-Tomas Badura, Karel Jakubu, Jana Meliskova, Ales Prochazka, Marie Vrbova
Movie type: Documentary/Musical
Release date: 25 March 2023
IMDB Rating: 7.6/10
Languages: Czech
Duration: 1 Hour 31 Minutes


Kapr Code (2022)


Even before the start of the Jihlava festival, there was a lot of talk about Lucie Králové’s new documentary, and the screenings themselves lived up to the high expectations. Kapr Code, promoted as a “documentary opera”, won in the Česká radost section, and although it is a very specific work, it will also be in regular cinemas in mid-December. It is hard to expect that he will break attendance records in them, but we should draw attention to him – because this is not only high-quality work but also highly original by the standards of Czech documentaries.

Experienced filmmaker Lucie Králová has not shied away from non-standard documentary formats in the past, as her best-known work The Lost Holiday, awarded at the Karlovy Vary Festival in 2007 as the best feature-length documentary, was essentially a detective story. This time, Králová has delved into complex operatic waters, which is quite appropriate given that she has chosen a forgotten composer to follow.

During his adolescence in the 20s and 30s of the last century, Jan Kapr had a foothold on a gymnastic career, but a serious injury prevented him from doing so. Therefore, Karp began to devote himself to his second passion, namely music. He graduated from the conservatory, and worked in radio, and in the early 1950s, at the time of the most rigid Stalinism, the communist leaders of the time liked him thanks to his successful musical compositions for propaganda documentaries and construction films.

Later, he also devoted himself to teaching activities and gradually moved from the classical concept of opera to modern, more avant-garde currents. He protested against the Soviet occupation in 1968, as a result of which the communists prevented him from further work during normalization. A prominent favorite of the regime, he became an outcast, and Karp lived the rest of his life in seclusion, surrounded by his family and his pupils. He did not live to see the Velvet Revolution.

Karpr’s life story undoubtedly arouses controversy, and it would certainly not be appropriate to unequivocally adore it – but at the same time, we should not resort to similarly one-sided condemnations from the other side. For a large part of his life, Kapr struggled with uncertainty about how to approach various personal and societal issues; he found better answers to some of them, and worse to some. Not despite that, but precisely because of that, he is an interesting personality even today.

And the unique style of his documentary portrait is adapted to this. It would be relatively easy to shoot a routine, TV-looking medallion, but Lucie Králová shouldn’t be sitting on the director’s chair. Together with her team, she went through the maximum amount of materials from Kapro’s legacy – i.e. 150 songs, 12 kilograms of letters, and six hours of his home video archive.

“Sometimes we can only follow traces permeated by dissonance and the volatility of memory,” reads the opening title, after which the entire narrative emerges from the mist of the pond, making it clear that Kapr’s portrait adheres to the basic biographical facts, but to several connections and above all insight into the complex artistic soul are the work of filmmakers.

What’s more, Kapr’s life is retold in the form of an opera in several acts. We not only hear the music based on Kapro’s work, but we even see the process of its creation: Sometimes the camera offers us a look at the rehearsals of the Czech Philharmonic Choir Brno under the direction of theater director Jiří Adámek and choirmaster Petr Fiala (by the way, the last living student of Kapro).

The result is a truly unique shape freely crossing the boundaries of film, theater, and opera. Snapshots from Kapr’s archive as well as more traditional illustrative shots intertwine with the meta-layer of the choir, drawing attention to the creation of the work itself. The viewer realizes that this is not a traditional documentary when a single talking head appears peculiarly. Music fans will certainly be intrigued by this playful dialogue between Kapr’s original music and the newly created opera (written by librettist Petra Šuško and Jiří Adámek, while moviegoers can be surprised by the never-before-seen, highly imaginative deconstruction of the biographical documentary.

At the same time, it must be admitted that less musically educated viewers will fumble, especially in the second half, when the opera performance loses a bit of pace in proportion to how Kapr leaned towards more difficult-to-understand, avant-garde elements. The uncertainties of his life at that time are also reflected in the poorer clarity of the film work, which, however, does not lose its associative character and firmly sticks to the theme of water – if only because Jan Kapr himself liked to swim very much. The dive into his life’s vicissitudes does not overwhelm the viewer with information, rather it navigates sympathetically and engagingly through one significant fate.

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