Filmmaker Agnieszka Holland, whose latest film Green Border has been drawing awards-season buzz, has begun pre-production on her latest feature film in Prague. Franz is inspired by the life of renowned writer Franz Kafka, and is set to begin shooting in April of next year with a total of 40 shooting days in the Czech Republic and Germany.
Franz is tentatively scheduled to release in Czech cinemas in late 2024 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the death of Kafka, who passed away at the age of 40 in 1924.
In set photos from pre-production released to local media, Holland along with producer Šárka Cimbalová and cinematographer Tomasz Naumiuk can be seen working with actor Štěpán Klán, who has been cast to play the young Kafka. Additional cast info has yet to be revealed.
Polish filmmaker Holland, who graduated from the prestigious FAMU film academy in Prague, has been a successful filmmaker for decades, and earned an Oscar nomination for her screenplay to 1990’s Europa, Europa. Speaking to Czech TV, she said she she considers herself partly Czech given her studies and collaborations with Czech filmmakers and affinity for Czech cinema.
“Kafka was really important to me almost from childhood, I read The Trial when I was 15 years old and it was because of him that I decided to study in Prague,” Holland noted on the Czech TV program Události on Sunday, adding that Franz was conceived not as a traditional biopic, but something that also incorporated Kafka’s work.
“I would like to think of the film as a kind of collage of scenes and stories from the life and books of Franz [….] We are building the floor plan of a dissolute fictional docu-drama in which nothing is impossible.”
For Franz, the director describes creating a captivating mosaic that transcends Kafka’s life and offers insights into his imagination, pushing boundaries and immersing viewers in his mind. The film aims to capture the essence of Kafka’s enigmatic persona and shed new light on his life and legacy.
Holland and producer Cimbalová previously collaborated on Green Border, which is Poland’s submission to next year’s Academy Awards, and Charlatan, which was chosen as the Czech Republic’s official submission to the 2021 Oscars. The screenplay for Franz was co-written by Marek Epstein, who also collaborated with Holland on Charlatan.
“After working with Agnieszka on the film Charlatan, we were looking for a new subject for a joint project that interests us both,” Cimbalová adds. “And Kafka fascinated us as a figure that is difficult to grasp, as a myth and a phenomenon existing in sharp contrast to the information that has survived about him.”
“He is perhaps the only author in the world whose privacy and life have been written about more than his work. He was a sensitive person who was out of step with his time, a man of the third millennium.”
“Today we have a much better chance of understanding him than his peers did a hundred years ago. We want to carefully put together fragments of his life and try to create a mosaic that goes beyond his life and points to his person.”
As the 100th anniversary of Kafka’s death approaches, Franz promises to deliver a fresh perspective on the renowned writer’s life and work.
Lead photo: producer Šárka Cimbalová, actor Štěpán Klán, director Agnieszka Holland, and cameraman Tomasz Naumiuk on the set of Franz courtesy Michal Ureš / Marlene Film Production