Brendan Fraser completed his incredible Hollywood comeback tour this past weekend, picking up the Academy Award for Best Actor for his devastating turn in The Whale. But eight years ago, the actor was in quite a different place, shooting a low-budget sci-fi movie in the Czech Republic.
Behind the Curtain of Night was to be the directorial debut for Czech New Age author Dalibor Stach, based on his 2012 book of the same name (Za oponou noci in Czech), which covered his own near-death experiences. It was financed by Czech businessman Milan Friedrich, who had previously founded the local fashion brand American Way and would also be making his first foray into filmmaking with the project.
“Behind the Curtain of Night covers a global theme that is relevant to all of us, what happens after our death,” Stach told the Russian server Kino-Punk in a 2019 interview.
“The film reveals this idea deeper than other similar films shot on the subject. I tried to convey the symbolic and surrealistic experience of clinical death audio-visually, at the same time I worked with a test audience (from factory workers to intellectuals) to make sure that my story and idea was easy for everyone to understand.”
Hollywood stars Brendan Fraser, Marcia Cross (Desperate Housewives), and Dawn Olivieri (House of Lies) were cast in Behind the Curtain of Night, joining local talent such as Boleslav Polívka, Michal Suchánek, Chantal Poullain, Petra Bučková, and David Novotný.
According to Stach, the casting of Fraser was serendipitous. The actor had his own near death experiences, most notably on the set of The Mummy, of which the director was previously unaware. Actors such as Bruce Willis and Chris Hemsworth were reportedly also under consideration for the role played by Fraser, which is apparently a minor but crucial part of the film.
“Brendan is a professional, and above all a kind and charming person. He asked me why I cast him. When I looked through a list which consisted of about thirty well-known actors, his name was strangely glowing in the middle. I had no explanation for this,” Stach told Kino-Punk.
“When he arrived on the set, he told me that he himself had experienced two clinical deaths, so we would be like-minded people. During filming, the hotel was crowded, and I had to look for eight setups to shoot. We had a limited period of time to film, just 12 hours. However, everything went well. Brendan even gave me a compliment, thanking me for the clear planning of the filming process. We managed to shoot everything in time.”
Fraser, by the way, also has some Czech ancestry: in a 2010 interview promoting Extraordinary Measures, he told Irish America that his roots included Irish, Scottish, German, and Czech.
Behind the Curtain of Night shot in the Czech Republic in 2015, in locations in and around Most outside of Prague, Ostrov and Jáchymov in the Karlovy Vary region, Kamenický Šenov near Liberec, Jirkov, and Ústí nad Labem.
The film was initially scheduled to be released in 2017, but that date came and went with little update on the project. In the ensuing years, Friedrich would venture into Hollywood, serving as executive producer on projects such as Altitude, starring Dolph Lundgren and Denise Richards, and Saving Christmas, with Edward Asner.
In 2020, Friedrich would make a sci-fi movie based on his own real-life experiences: the alien abduction story Alpha Code, which starred Richards and Randy Couture and shot around Prague. According to a press release for Alpha Code, the producer’s “engineering work on electromagnetic levitation generators was the impetus for the story and incorporated into the film.”
Friedrich would quietly release another film in 2020: The Secret of Karma, starring Brendan Fraser and Marcia Cross. It was, apparently, a version of Behind the Curtain of Night that was completed without the participation of its original writer-director, and dropped without promotion on Vimeo and Prime Video.
The Secret of Karma can still be rented on Prime Video today for $3.99, but user reviews have not been kind. No critics or journalists appear to have reviewed this version of the movie.
Stach, meanwhile, was hard at work at completing his official version of Behind the Curtain of Night. Late last year, he finally finished it, and premiered the now-titled Dimensions (Dimenze) at Prague’s Kino Lucerna on December 10.
Since then, he has been taking the movie on a roadshow across the Czech Republic and Slovakia, personally accompanying screenings of his film. According to his website, he plans to continue to tour with the film through April 2024.
“I don’t know about the 2020 version. I haven’t seen it, I haven’t worked on it, and I don’t want to see it either,” Stach wrote on a ČSFD.cz message board late last year. “From 2016 to 2019, I completed 20 minutes of unfinished material with the help of a Czech audience, and from 2019 to spring 2022 I edited it, when test screenings were made with a theatrical audience.”
If you’re in the Czech Republic or Slovakia, you can catch a screening of the director’s cut of the film at Stach’s touring roadshow; next month, the movie will play in Karlovy Vary, Brno, Ostrava, and Bratislava, among other locations, detailed on its website.
Future availability for Stach’s official version of Behind the Curtain of Night, now called Dimensions, is still TBA.
Lead image: Brendan Fraser in Dimensions (Dimenze) © ASTAFILM, s.r.o.