The adventures of Robin Hood have fired the imagination of filmmakers since time immemorial. Or, to be precise, since 1938 when they made the first famous film with Errol Flynn. There have been numerous versions of the story retold over the years. Little wonder it has also (and inevitably) made its way into foreign lands. In the Kingdom of Bohemia, upon the death of Přemysl Otakar II on 26 August 1278, chaos ensued. Ravages of injustice and violence swept the land. A younger son of a lord took part in Lord Edward’s Crusade (the Ninth Crusade under Edward, Duke of Gascony, the future King Edward I of England) and returned home from the Outremer only to see his king fall. Facing a new reality he became an outlaw. Film director Leoš Kastner tells Katarzyna Ogrodnik-Fujcik about his directorial debut, ‘Zbojník’ (The Outlaw).
The obvious question to start with is: How did Leoš Kastner become a film maker?
My involvement with Zbojník (The Outlaw) movie and its medieval theme probably began with my love of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, as well as the Hussite Trilogy of Otakar Vávra. Both influenced me a great deal in my love of the medieval era. They really influenced the way I thought about movies and the way I thought about storytelling in general. I had made films since I was fourteen, shooting movies with my friends and neighbors. We did a remake of The Hobbit, and others like it. Even then, my ambition was to become a filmmaker. I went to a school in Pilsen at Ladislav Sutnar’s Faculty of Design and Art and that was really influential for me because it was a place where your own voice and your sort of vision could really be cultivated. Mainly it’s the visual language I find interesting.
Oldrich z Roupova [Ulrich of Ruppau)… How did you come up with the idea of making him the main character of your directoral debut?
Ulrich of Ruppau (Oldrich z Rupova) is a fictional character who, in the course of the story, gradually becomes acquainted with real contemporary historical figures. Ulrich is inspired by the Czech legend of the bandit called Ondráš. I wanted him to represent a good and complicated character along with a high-quality script. He’s trying to find his way in the world and his purpose. He also has his antecedents in the English outlaw Robin Hood and Tolkien’s character Túrin Turambar.
Zbojník is an independent film, students’ project. Have you encountered any difficulties while working on it? What was the hardest part?
The biggest problem was finding a reasonable budget to make this kind of film. The State Cinematography Fund of the Czech Republic refused support, which was unpleasant for us, but the fan community got this project on its feet. Normally a project like this would cost millions of euros, but we were able to make the film for a fraction of that. Because of the promise I’ve made to fans, it has created this community that said, “We need to know what this movie will look like”.
The Battle on the Marchfeld, the Outremer, all of this has been filmed in the Czech Republic… Was it difficult to find the locations?
Originally we had a bold plan to film the battle right on the historical site where it took place in 1278, so on the meadows of Dürnkrut. But we realised this would be logistically and financially challenging, so I scrutinized the surface of Dürnkrut to best hit an alternate location, which we eventually did, and the result is visually stunning fragments of the battle.
It must have been quite a challenge to film the Battle on the Marchfeld, one of the most decisive battles of the Middle Ages, in which the great Přemysl Otakar II fell…
Unfortunately, we were unable to completely reconstruct the battle, which would probably have been the most expensive film project ever undertaken in this country. We filmed a) the march of the army, b) the military meeting of Otakar II and the Czech nobles, c) the arrival of the Czech and Hungarian troops, and d) the death of Přemysl Otakar II. It was a very challenging day, but we are very satisfied with the final images. I dare say the reconstruction of the jewel and armour of this important Czech king is one of the best ever made.
ZBOJNÍK | Final Trailer | 2023 [EN subtitles] – YouTube
I dare to say, you’re right. The king certainly captures the attention. There have been many films in the history of the Czech filmography featuring the Iron and Golden King, but yours is epic, to say the least…
As a Czech history enthusiast, I am very happy to hear this because I personally consider Přemysl Otakar II to be a great ruler. In English history we could find a similar model in Richard the Lionheart (Richard I). Our historical advisor Marijan Krumlovský, who carefully followed historical sources, took great care in reconstructing the king.
Yes, the king’s helm in particular is a treat. You are not only a film maker but a medievalist, too. What I find truly inspiring about your work is the attention you pay to detail…
I am flattered that you find my work so historically accurate that you call me a medievalist, but unfortunately I am not. It was my main choice in life – to go to art school and become a filmmaker, or to study history at the Faculty of Philosophy in Prague. In the end, I chose the first option, but with The Outlaw I combined my two great loves.
You don’t have to have a formal education to have a thorough knowledge of a subject and your work indicates you do have a thorough knowledge of the subject. Which is of great benefit to the film. Your crew and the reenactors you worked with all put their hearts into the project, too…
Yes, it’s definitely true. It’s remarkable to be a part of this community. Everybody’s got a lot of enthusiasm and I’ve got a boyish kind of energy to make something new and epic. Just over the course of making this movie, I’ve become closer with the actors. I do count them all as friends and I think with all of these guys, I sort of cast them in their alter ego first, and modeled that through who they are as people.
I have high hopes for Zbojník and I believe that it is a direction in which films about the Middle Ages ought to go. What are your plans for the future? Has there been a new project on your mind? If yes, could you give us a glimpse of what it is going to be?
I’ve been making the movie Zbojník for almost four years now, which is a lot of time and work. After its completion, I plan to regain energy. However, I am already preparing a new project, which does not yet have a name, but will again be historical. The story should take place in the Middle Ages as well, but I’d rather not share the details. Yet.
Sounds intriguing! I wish you best of luck with all your upcoming projects. Looking forward to Zbojník premiere in June.
You can support the project here:
Detail transparentního účtu | KASTNER LEOŠ (kb.cz)