42nd Karlovy Vary Film Festival (June 29-July 7, 2007)
Tales of Suffering and Ecstasy
by Massoud Mehrabi
The main reason for my third trip to Karlovy Vary was neither its old and creditable festival, nor its great film program, but it was the magic of Karlovy Vary which enticed me. Without any doubt, many correspondents, film critics, and guests, who arrive in the city every year (to pay pilgrimage to it), are more infatuated with the city than its film festival, though they may say nothing about it in their reports. Only one single visit to the city is enough to make its beauty as well as spas and scenic specters part of your dreams even when you are wide awake. It is a fact that the city is cinematic than its festival.
Karlovy Vary is located 110 km west of Prague. The old and historical part of the city is located in the bottom of a valley flanked by relatively high hills and surrounded by lush forests. A river passes through the city and its bed has been designed into small cascades. Therefore, the sound of water is heard like a soothing music which calms down human soul. On both sides of the river, there are buildings which are quite balanced in terms of number and stories, external decorations, paintings and their classic architectural style. The first feeling that sweeps over you in the first glance is that you are standing among a magnificent historical film décor. Not only external view, but internal components of that décor indicate high artistic tact. It is for the beautiful location of the city that, thus far, more than 100 short and feature films have been made there.
The city owes most of its fame to spas. Apart from special baths inside or on the side of hotels, the water from mineral springs is directed to several pools that are located along the main boulevard of the city via canals where tourists can drink the water or pour it in something and take it as souvenir. Karlovy Vary, which is located near border with Germany, has drawn many courtiers and royal families from all across Europe and even Asia and Africa to its spas in late 18th and early 19th centuries, including Iran’s Mozaffareddin Shah who visited the city in 1900. The city is not simply famous because it has been visited by kings and emperors, but such dignitaries as Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, and Ludwig van Beethoven have also visited it while Friedrich Chopin, Karl Maria Weber, Richard Wagner, and Nicolo Paganini have lived there for a time. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Johannes Brahms, Anthony Dvorak, and even Karl Marx have been there. Presence of masters of world classic music in the city has, undoubtedly, been due to the effect of the city on their creativity. Other things have also contributed to make the city more famous. One of them is a crystal factory, which still produces the finest crystals in the world. All told, the climate is heavenly. The Republic of Czech is the roof and garden of Europe and Karlovy Vary is the roof and garden of the Republic of Czech.
Karlovy Vary Film Festival is 62 years old and has gone through many ups and downs. Its first edition opened in July 1946 as an international, but noncompetitive event simultaneously in Mariánské Lázně and Karlovy Vary. In 1948, the festival moved to Karlovy Vary and a competition section was added to it where films could win prizes. Later incidents were influenced by political developments following domination of communists on the country in February 1948. Thereafter, especially during the Cold War, the festival paid more attention to political, rather than artistic, films. Even worse than that, the festival was broken in two parts as of 1959: it was alternatively held in Moscow and Karlovy Vary!
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