#FlashbackFriday : Prague, the golden backdrop to fiction

Jeremy Irons starred as Mr. Kafka in Steven Soderbergh’s 1991 film ‘Kafka,’ shot in Prague in black and white, and in color. Courtesy photo.
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The Czech capital has been featured in countless foreign films, and we list some of the best-known

Having retained its old-world charm despite four decades of communist rule, the capital of the Czech Republic has lured many a Hollywood producer, and not just for the phenomenally experienced team and well-equipped facilities at the famed Barrandov Film Studios.

 

Since the Velvet Revolution of 1989, Prague has played host to hundreds of film productions, which have used the city for its beauty and its atmosphere. Sometimes the latter traits were directly on display as the world got to see the Golden City up close, and sometimes it was slightly altered in order to reflect a similar style somewhere else on the Continent where shooting may have been more costly.

Here are a few of the most memorable examples of Prague used as a location in Hollywood films of the past two decades.

Feel free to add more in the comments section below.

Amadeus (1984)

Filmed in director Miloš Forman’s home country in its last decade of oppressive rule, the biopic of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, based on the play by Peter Shaffer, used Prague to double for, among others, the 18th-century back alleys of Vienna (Malá Strana) and the gorgeous interior of the Austrian capital’s Opera House (Prague’s Estates Theater), where Emperor Joseph II heard “too many notes.” Parts of the film were also shot in the town of Kroměříž, east Moravia.

 

Kafka (1991)

Steven Soderbergh’s little-known second film, following his enormously successful début, sex, lies, and videotape, which had won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival two years earlier, was shot in Prague in the year following the Velvet Revolution. Drawing on the city’s Baroque architecture and its historical connection to Franz Kafka, this hyperstylized, very fictional take on the author of The Trial and Metamorphosis, in which “Mr. Kafka” becomes aware of a secret organization in control of the city, won’t be for everyone, but its ambience is fittingly convoluted.

 

Mission: Impossible (1996)

Brian De Palma’s film adaptation of the well-known television series had some tense moments that were set in the land between West and East, where Americans were still hatching some dastardly plans even as the East’s veil of secrecy was gradually lifting. The first act of this film is set in a Prague where the U.S. Embassy apparently looks exactly like the National History Museum on Wenceslas Square, and main character Ethan Hunt finds himself missing a violent car explosion on Kampa square (Na Kampě), just off Charles Bridge, which is eerily deserted. In the film’s third sequel, the 2011 Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Prague doubled as Budapest and Moscow (yikes!).

 

XXX (2002)

In the rather silly action-adventure film that featured Vin Diesel a decade ago, the climax takes place on the waters of the Vltava River. A device transporting a nuclear bomb is traveling into the heart of the city, and it is up to the titular triple-X to pass multiple times under the same bridge (before apparently turning around and heading upstream again?) in order to defuse the bomb and the tension. His accomplice easily parks her car in the middle of Charles Bridge and watches him save the day and the 600-year-old bridge by a hair.

 

The Brothers Bloom (2008)

A bit of a comedy, a bit of a caper, all very stylish but never terribly serious, this film by Rian Johnson (director of the outstanding and elegant science-fiction films Brick and Looper) sees Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody as confidence tricksters who team up with Robbie Coltrane and Rachel Weisz to steal a rare book in Prague. At one point blowing up a historic tower and then finding themselves on the Charles Bridge, the film will be fun to those who know the city and gorgeous for anyone else.


André Crous can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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About the Author

André Crous

André Crous Google Plus

Hailing from the Cape Winelands in South Africa, André spent his student years at home and all over France before making the move to Prague in 2011. He has worked as a film critic and copy editor, and is a member of the renowned international association of film critics, FIPRESCI.

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