Bathory (SK/CZ/GB/HU)

Directed by Juraj Jakubisko
Bratislava (Slovakia), May 2006
Making of directed by Sakis Kontos

Juraj Jakubisko – Director
I decided to make this film because Countess Elizabeth Bathory is the most famous Austro-Hungarian aristocrat that lived in what is Slovakia today. She is so well known that she is also included in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most prolific mass murderer, a legend I personally believe is not true. She supposedly murdered 650 people during her lifetime. I think this theory is absurd and thought of creating my own legend, which would show her in a completely different light, very tender, and tenderness is related to art… The film is essentially a mix of genres. What is interesting about this story is that it doesn’t even lack humour and it is also a kind of crime story as there are two monks investigating what is actually going on with Bathory. But there is also political intrigue, and the drama of an intelligent woman too weak to face all the odds she had to face… It is the story of a woman, Elizabeth Bathory, who, in short, was unfortunate to have been born at the wrong time in history…

 

Deana Jakubisková – Producer
Financing of the production is definitely the most difficult problem. The fact that we are actually filming locally but involved in an international co-production is increasing the budget: we have to keep certain production standards and criteria of an international production. The crew is working under different terms in an international production and this only adds to the total cost. Historical films are very demanding financially and that alone explains why our budget is so high. On the other hand, I believe that, in Europe, we are still committed to making films with reasonable budgets – if our film was to be shot outside Europe it might have cost $100-120m. We are filming in Slovakia and Czech Republic, but not in Hungary. Hungary is just part of the co-production. That is also because the story actually took place in what is today Slovakia, even if Bathory was Hungarian. As for the renaissance castle interiors, these are filmed in the Czech Republic but we had to re-create the underground part of Bathory’s castle in Bratislava’s Koliba Studios. It’s funny, but if we hadn’t done so our actors might have walked off and abandoned us. Because when the temperature outside is, for instance, 40 degrees, in a real castle, in the catacombs it can be as low as three degrees…

 

Kevan Van Thompson – Line Producer
Bathory is certainly the biggest international production made in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It is a co-production with UK and Hungary and it is under the Eurimages banner as well. When you’re shooting entirely in the Czech and Slovak Republics it is quite difficult. But we have quite a few English-speaking people on board and of the leading four actors, three are English and one of them is Czech – Karel Roden, who is a great international star as well. In terms of how big it is really though, it is probably the most ambitious film that’s ever been shot here. The period and the fact that there a lot of international stars makes it much more difficult than shooting just a Czech-language film. We are also using a lot of Czech actors that have to speak very good English; otherwise we’d have to re-dub the whole film. We also have a dialogue coach from the UK for the main stars and we have a dialogue coach to look after all the Czech actors, so they’re here all the time, working night and day to make sure that the over 100 speaking parts all speak enough English to be able to keep it a proper English-language movie.

 

Anna Friel – Actress
I play Elizabeth Bathory, who is a real historical character, but we tell a very different story, we think she is very misjudged and she wasn’t guilty of all the crimes attributed to her. There is a lot of folklore and Bathory is a strong, warrior-like heroine who has a duty to her marriage and her country, which stretched from the borders over Moravia all the way to the Adriatic Sea, and she basically had to do it single-handedly. This is the first time I’ve ever made a movie with a director that doesn’t speak any English, but I’m enjoying it immensely. I think the entire Czech crew we have are the hardest workers I’ve ever come across. We’re doing mad hours, like 16 hours a day, and they’ve been so collaborative and so helpful and warm; and the translation has been fantastic. It is very complicated, the story spans over 25 years – in the morning we’re doing chapter one and in the afternoon we may be doing chapter three when she was 54 and we all have to stick together and I think the English blending with the Czech is working quite nicely. Europe is beautiful. I think the nicest thing is that they are still paying attention to making films look beautiful, which is quite rare these days.

 

Jiri Mádl – Actor
I play Cyril, a young monk who is taught by Peter, the older monk. He is still a boy looking for new beauty and exploring life – he’s more a boy than a monk. They’re like spies, they’re working for the monastery and arguing because I support Elizabeth Bathory and Peter is against her; but we work together. I still have to travel between Prague and Bratislava because I’m doing another film in Prague, so I always have to jump from one city to the other, from a contemporary film to a historical film, from Czech to English; so, it’s really difficult. I think this is a big chance for me, and a big challenge, because the roles I’ve played before have been absolutely different. And I’m also happy to play in a film “older” than my previous or present ones; it is also historical and in English so there’s the extra challenge. Maybe it’s more difficult because it is in English but we are still practicing and training. I hope it will help the film because it will be more international.

 

Lucie Vondracková – Actress
My name is Lucy like in real life, and I’m Countess Bathory’s maid. I like her very much and… I survive. From my point of view, from Lucy’s point of view, Bathory is the greatest person in the world… I like it because the script isn’t about the legend; the script is about how it could have been. This is the third film I’m making do with Juraj Jakubisko and in every film that we’ve made together I was crystal and pure in the film – just like here. So, if you can imagine the renaissance era and the evil things being done around Bathory – I’m absolutely the opposite. Here, what I find tough is that you’re around many people from the Czech Republic, they always speak our language, Czech, but I have to act in English, which drives me crazy…