The Last Butterfly

Country

Czechoslovakia, France

Copyright

1990

Production year

1990

Premiere

1 January 1991

Runtime

111 min

Category

film

Genre

tragedy

Typology

featuretheatrical distributionlong

Original title

Poslední motýl

Czech title

Poslední motýl

English title

The Last Butterfly

Parallel title

La dernier papillon

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

Dubbing Václav Postránecký
mim Antoine Moreau

Brigitte Fossey

Dubbing Dana Syslová
vychovatelka Věra

Ingrid Held

Dubbing Taťjana Medvecká
Michèle vlastním jménem Suzanne de la Croix

Freddie Jones

Dubbing Soběslav Sejk
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

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

Renée Slováčková

manželka Grubera

Eugen Jegorov

hudebník

Zbyněk Malý

hudebník

Jan Burk

Ondřej Ernyei

Ctirad Fuchs

Helena Gabrielová

Antonín Klepáč

Eva Kolenská

Oliver Rožek

Alice Pinková

Josef Špinka

Crew and creators

Second Unit Director

Miloš Kohout

Assistant Director

Michal Herz, Jana Jiříčková, Jana Kůtková, Jiří Moravčík

Based on

Michael Jacot (Terezínské děti /Les enfants de Terezin/ – román)

Director of Photography

Jiří Krejčík ml.

Second Unit Photography

Karel Dobřichovský

Camera Operator

František Kučera, Brigitte Barbier

Production Designer

Zbyněk Hloch, Michal Krška

Assistent Production Designer

Milan Býček, Borek Strádal

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

Miloš Schmiedberger (fotograf), Jiří Gemrot, Jan Vít, Drahomír Hubálek

Music

Music Composed by

Milan Svoboda, Alex North

Selected Music

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

Music Performed by

Ivan Ženatý, FISYO (Music Conducted by Štěpán Koníček), Jazzfonický orchestr (Music Conducted by Stanislav Lerch), Staročeská muzika

Music Supervisor

Jiří Zobač

Songs

Málo, málo úsměvů

Songwriter Jiří Šust
Writer of Lyrics Pavel Kopta
Singer Hana Hegerová

Lidské osudové kolo

Singer Martin DejdarVida Skalská-Neuwirthová

Die Fahne hoch /Horst Wessel Lied/

Songwriter Etienne Nicolas Méhul

Si vous voulez savoir

Songwriter Sylver Victor Cassot
Writer of Lyrics Jacques Larug

Sing of Spring

Songwriter Alex North
Writer of Lyrics Mark Princi

Lulinke, main Feigele

Songwriter tradicionál
Singer Brigitte Fossey

Production info

Original Title

Poslední motýl

Czech Title

Poslední motýl

English Title

The Last Butterfly

Parallel Title

La dernier papillon

Category

film

Typology

featuretheatrical distribution

Genre

tragedy

Origin country

Czechoslovakia, France

Copyright

1990

Production Year

1990

Premiere

premiere 1 January 1991 /unsuitable for youths/

Distribution

Lucernafilm

Creative Group

2. tvůrčí skupina, Josef Císař (vedoucí 2. tvůrčí skupiny), Ivana Dortová (vedoucí produkce 2. tvůrčí skupiny)

Technical info

Duration typology

feature film

Duration in minutes

111 min

Original length in metres

2 570 meters

Distribution carrier

35mm

Aspect ratio

1:1,37

Colour

colour

Sound

sound

Sound system/format

Dolby Stereo

Versions

Czech

Dialogue languages

Czech

Subtitles languages

without subtitles

Opening/End credits languages

Czech

Awards

Vítěz

Event: Prémie Českého literárního fondu v oblasti filmové tvorby za rok 1989

1990
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Jiří Krejčík ml.

Vítěz

Event: Prémie Českého literárního fondu v oblasti filmové tvorby za rok 1989

1990
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Michal Krška

Vítěz

Event: Prémie Českého literárního fondu v oblasti filmové tvorby za rok 1989

1990
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Jan Kropáček

Vítěz

Event: Prémie Českého literárního fondu v oblasti filmové tvorby za rok 1989

1990
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Zbyněk Hloch

Vítěz

Event: Prémie Českého literárního fondu v oblasti filmové tvorby za rok 1989

1990
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Šárka Hejnová

Vítěz

Event: Prémie Českého literárního fondu v oblasti filmové tvorby za rok 1989

1990
Praha / Czechoslovakia
Ester Krumbachová