The world-famous artist’s life in a new context.
The documentary discussed in this article contains parts on both English and Czech a moderate understanding of both
languages is recommended.
Alfons Mucha, the genius behind many Art Nouveau posters, applied art, and paintings, including the monumental ‘Slav Epic’, became famous at the turn of the 20th century. So why now, in the 21st century, has the famous American artist Mear One used Mucha’s signature style in his 10-metre high portrait on the side of a Los Angeles building? Why is the Japanese illustrator Yoshitaka Amano, as well as other manga artists, proudly using Mucha’s legacy in his work? ‘The World According to Mucha’, a documentary film directed by Roman Vávra, promises a new, and in many ways surprisingly up-to-date, depiction of Alfons Mucha’s life. It will premiere in spring 2020 to coincide with the 160th anniversary of Mucha’s birth.
‘The World According to Mucha’ is the most comprehensive film about one of the most famous Czech painters made in the last two decades. “Our film will depict Mucha’s life, and show how his fame and desires contradicted each other,” remarks producer Ondřej Beránek. The source material for the film were Mucha’s diaries, autobiography, and as yet unseen correspondence. “I would characterise it as a stylised film with documentary features. We combined elements of pure documentary with animation, supported by film’s more expressive capacity,” explains Roman Vávra, the film’s director. It was filmed in the spring and summer of 2019 in the Czech Republic, Paris, Japan and the USA. Among the Prague locations was an apartment on Hradčanské Square, where Alfons’ son Jiří Mucha lived for many years.
Mucha became famous almost overnight, thanks to his collaboration with actress Sarah Bernhardt. However, the painter decided to leave Paris at the height of his success to create his masterpiece, the Slav Epic, in his homeland. His work still inspires artists around the world. “We used Alfons’s memories to tell the story. He began writing a journal towards the end of his life, using small sheets of paper. Alfons’ death, as well as the political turbulence of the following decades, meant that these diaries were never published. Jiří Mucha began to sort through them almost twenty years later at the request of his mother Marie. The storyline is centred around a sort of inner dialogue between Alfons and Jiří as Jiří begins working on a biography detailing the events of his father’s life. This dialogue is illustrated by scenes of Jiří working on the book, as well as the everyday goings-on in Jiří’s home. Particularly evocative are the depictions of lively parties, and the search for somebody to fill the role of wife for both father and son – this was a lifelong inspiration for both of them,” adds Roman Vávra.
“The weight of the film is derived from the contradictions that arise from his life and work. Mucha, as a ‘self-made man’, became one of the first artistic celebrities to emerge from the burgeoning concept of ‘popular culture’. His peculiar style influenced many artists in the future and his influence in the art world is still visible today. It is mainly reflected in street art, psychedelic rock posters and Japanese manga. In this respect, Mucha’s legacy is truly phenomenal, yet practically unknown to the general public,” explains the film’s screenwriter, Sára Valnohová, drawing attention to the context of ‘The World According to Mucha’. The filmmakers invited several well-known, highly regarded artists who are inspired by Mucha to appear in the film. These include Stanley Mouse, a leading poster designer, who has created artwork for bands and musicians such as Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix. American artist Mear One, whose street art is famous both within and outside of the graffiti community, also appeared, as did the Japanese illustrator Yoshitaka Amano.
The World According to Mucha Directed by Roman Vávra / Content and Story by Martin Polák / Screenplay by Markéta Sára Valnohová / Filmed by Martin Štěpánek / Edited by Katarína Buchanan Geyerová / Cinematography by Milan Popelka / Czech Television Creative Producer – Dušan Mulíček / Produced by Ondřej Beránek and Jakub Pinkava, Punk Film s.r.o.
The film was co-produced by Punk Film, Czech Television, ARTE and the German company Maxim Film (producer Peter Roloff), in cooperation with the Mucha Foundation, with the support of the Cinematography Fund, WOW Prague Film Fund, Pilsen Region, South Moravian Region, Statutory City of Brno.