The Last Butterfly

tragedy

Typology

feature

Czech title

Poslední motýl

Runtime

111

Country

Czechoslovakia, France

Copyright

1990

Production year

1990

Premiere

01.01.1991

Language version

Czech

Director

Karel Kachyňa

Screenplay

Ota Hofman, Karel Kachyňa

Screenstory

Michael Jacot

Summary

Veteran director Karel Kachyňa’s 1990 war drama set in a Nazi-controlled Jewish ghetto was filmed according to a screenplay penned by Ota Hofman. Central to this motion picture – a Czechoslovak coproduction with France and Great Britain, with an international cast – is the French mime Moreau, who is forced by the Nazis to stage a theatrical performance with child inmates. Their performance is to be presented to a commission of the Red Cross as proof of the supposedly humane conditions prevailing in the ghetto. But the artist decides to conceive his fairytale rendition of Hans and Gretel as a true testimony of the camp’s brutal and shocking reality… Tom Courtenay shines in the leading role, while another British actor, Freddie Jones, is impressive as piano player Rheinberg. This moving story was inspired by the first performances of the children’s opera Brundibár. They took place in the Terezín ghetto from September 1943 to the autumn of 1944, with a special performance arranged for visiting Red Cross inspectors.

Synopsis

It is the Second World War. The famous pantomimer Antoine Moreau performs in a cabaret in German-occupied Paris. Nazi officers are in the audience, too. Antoine is jealous of his young lover, the dancer Mich?le. He even follows her on her reported way to a dressmaker and has a fight with a man with whom the girl secretly meets. But it is in fact her brother who - like Mich?le - is a member of the underground resistance. The girl, however, dies soon afterwards, falling from a cornice during her escape from the Gestapo. Moreau is arrested and, after a brutal interrogation, an SS officer offers him freedom in exchange for performing for Jewish children in the ghetto. The mime is taken to an enclosed town where the Nazis imitate a kind of a game on normality: a hotel, a bank, a coffee shop - everything is there but nothing is really working. The children steal Antoine's suitcase with his props. In the hotel cellar, a symphony orchestra conducted by Karel Rheinberg from Vienna rehearses. The orchestra has an excellent cast - there are top Jewish musicians from all over Europe. Commander Gruber is waiting for the arrival of the International Red Cross' committee, which should be shown rich cultural activities in the ghetto. Antoine is severely beaten on the street by young SS members. He, however, seems suspicious even to the prisoners, for he is not even a Jew. A pretty children's educator, Věra, makes the little girl Stella return the stolen things to the mime artist. Gruber plays with Antoine as a cat with a mouse: he apologizes for the accident but at the same time orders him to stage the Brothers Grimm's fairy-tale Hansel and Gretel. Antoine is provided with a theatre hall and two musicians: the violin virtuoso Standler and a piano player called Rheinberg. The children who Antoine selects as actors are saved from being transported. Especially talented amongst them is Stella who platonically loves Antoine and can hardly bear that he and Věra have fallen in love. Antoine says goodbye to the departing transport by his famous pantomime about a dying and resurrected butterfly. The wild Stella breaks various restrictions and is punished by being included in the next batch for transport. Antoine saves her, claiming that her presence in the performance is crucial. Gruber thus sends another child on the transport instead of her. Before the committee's arrival, the commander supervises part of the performance but he does not see the end where Antoine inserted information for the shocked guests about the reality - the fairy-tale witch throws flocks of children to a furnace. When the delegation members want to talk to Antoine during the closing banquet, the commander claims that he has already returned to Paris. But he and Věra, as well as the participating children, have, in fact, already been prepared for the next transport. Before boarding the train, Antoine amuses everybody for the last time, lampooning the Nazi greeting - heiling. People being sent to their deaths recall happy moments of their previous lives.

Cast

Tom Courtenay

mim Antoine Moreau

Brigitte Fossey

vychovatelka Věra

Ingrid Held

Michèle vlastním jménem Suzanne de la Croix

Freddie Jones

dirigent a klavírista Karl Rheinberg

Milan Kňažko

velitel tábora Gruber

Josef Kemr

houslista Leo Stadler

Drahomíra Fialková

Stadlerova žena

Pavel Bobek

Silberstein, člen rady starších

Josef Laufer

Petersen, člen rady starších

Luděk Kopřiva

vrátný Wilhelm Laub

Rudolf Pellar

JUDr. Leroux

Jiří Lír

hudebník Steiner

Hana Hegerová

zpěvačka v ghettu

Jitka Molavcová

sekretářka Kellerová

Linda Jablonská

dívka Stella

Daniel Margolius

chlapec Samuel

Kamila Hodoušková

dívka Heda

Halka Halberštatová

dívka Ester

Jiří Málek

chlapec Otto

Markéta Slavíková

Liana

Petr Löwy

Ikarus

Milan Šimáček

příslušník SS, Gruberův pobočník

Jindřich Narenta

majitel kina

Beatrice Conrad

Jeanette

Martin Dejdar

mladý vězeň, klavírista

Jaromír Dulava

židovský četník

Oskar Gottlieb

židovský četník

Karel Greif

francouzský odbojář, přítel Michél

Michal Herz

pokladník v ghettu

František Husák

velitel gestapa

Petr Jákl

gestapák

Viktorie Knotková

radující se stará vězeňkyně

Jana Robenková

radující se stará vězeňkyně

Michal Pešek

příslušník SS

Lída Plachá

vězeňkyně

Viktor Riebauer

vězeň u žebříku

Oto Ševčík

důstojník SS

Jaroslav Someš

číšník v ghettu

Václav Štekl

ředitel varieté

Hana Talpová

herečka ve varieté

Pavel Zedníček

herec ve varieté

Vida Neuwirthová

mladá vězenkyně

Jaroslav Tomsa

gestapák

Jana Viščaková

servírka v ghettu

Oldřich Vlach

inspicient

Miloš Skalka

delegát Červeného kříže

Viktor Vrabec

delegát Červeného kříže

Vlastimil Zavřel

zatčený cukrář

Michaela Maurerová

holčička loupající brambory

Daniela Vacková

matka Stelly

Ota Jirák

otec Stelly

Eugen Jegorov

hudebník

Pavel Smetáček

hudebník

Renée Slováčková

manželka Grubera

Jan Burk

Ondřej Ernyei

Ctirad Fuchs

Helena Gabrielová

Antonín Klepáč

Eva Kolenská

Oliver Rožek

Alice Pinková

Josef Špinka

Dubbing

Václav Postránecký

hlas Antoina

Dana Syslová

hlas Věry

Taťjana Medvecká

hlas Michèle

Soběslav Sejk

hlas Rheinberga

Crew and creators

Second Unit Director

Miloš Kohout

Assistant Director

Marie Brodilová, Michal Herz, Jana Jiříčková, Jana Kůtková, Jiří Moravčík

Screenstory

Michael Jacot

Second Unit Photography

Karel Dobřichovský

Camera Operator

František Kučera, Brigitte Barbier

Production Designer

Zbyněk Hloch, Michal Krška

Art Director

Miloš J. Kohout

Set Designer

Milan Bábik, Miroslav Buberle, Vladimír Ježek, Jindřich Rada, Karel Vaňásek

Make-Up Artist

Jiří Šimon, Edith Remy, Vlasta Maléřová, Věra Podpěrová, Daniel Brož, Dana Hubáčková

Executive Producer

Patrick Dromgoole, Johnny Goodman

Production

Caroline Schweich, Boudjemaa Dahmane, Jacques Méthé

Production Manager

Viktor Schwarcz, Steven North

Unit Production Manager

Luboš Kozák, Luděk Blažek, Martin Kuk, Antonín Pražský, Lev Veltrubský

Unit Production Manager

Vladimír Seiml, Hana Svěráková, Vladimír Švestka

Consultant

MUDr. Erich Springer

Cooperation

Jiří Zobač, Jiří Gemrot, Borek Strádal, Milan Býček, Jan Vít, Drahomír Hubálek

Music

Music Composed by

Milan Svoboda, Alex North

Selected Music

Jacques Offenbach (Orfeus v podsvětí), Ferenc Liszt (Les Préludes), František Kmoch (Česká muzika), Karel Vacek (Skřivánek zpíval), Henry Purcell (Gordický uzel)

Music Performed by

Ivan Ženatý, FISYO, Jazzfonický orchestr, Staročeská muzika

Music Conducted by

Štěpán Koníček (FISYO), Stanislav Lerch (Jazzfonický orchestr)

Songs

Málo málo úsměvů, Lidské osudové kolo, Die Fahne hoch /Horst Wessel Lied/, Si vous voulez savoir, Sing of Spring, Lulinke, main Feigele, Avinu malkenu

Songwriter

Etienne Nicolas Méhul (Die Fahne hoch /Horst Wessel Lied/), Sylver Victor Cassot (Si vous voulez savoir), Alex North (Sing of Spring), tradicionál (Lulinke, main Feigele)

Writer of Lyrics

Jacques Larug (Si vous voulez savoir), Mark Princi (Sing of Spring)

Singer

Hana Hegerová (Málo málo úsměvů), Martin Dejdar (Lidské osudové kolo), Vida Skalská-Neuwirthová (Lidské osudové kolo), Brigitte Fossey (Lulinke, main Feigele), soubor MIŠPACHA (Avinu malkenu), ženský sbor Pavla Kühna (Avinu malkenu)

Production info

Original Title

Poslední motýl

English Title

The Last Butterfly

Parallel Title

La dernier papillon

Copyright

1990

Production Year

1990

Premiere

01.01.1991

Distribution

Lucernafilm

Creative Group

Josef Císař

Technical info

Format

Betacam

Versions

Czech

Awards

Vítěz

Event: Prémie Českého literárního fondu za filmovou tvorbu

1990
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Jiří Krejčík ml.

Vítěz

Event: Prémie Českého literárního fondu za filmovou tvorbu

1990
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Michal Krška

Vítěz

Event: Prémie Českého literárního fondu za filmovou tvorbu

1990
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Jan Kropáček

Vítěz

Event: Prémie Českého literárního fondu za filmovou tvorbu

1990
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Zbyněk Hloch

Vítěz

Event: Prémie Českého literárního fondu za filmovou tvorbu

1990
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Šárka Hejnová

Vítěz

Event: Prémie Českého literárního fondu za filmovou tvorbu

1990
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Ester Krumbachová