The Burning Bush
The tanks disappeared from the streets months ago, taking with them the last pieces of hope of a more human face of totalitarianism. Another wave of bans, censorship and redundancy has occurred. Czech society stoops again under a new burden. Then comes Jan Palach.
A man covered in flames is running over Wenceslas Square. Moments later, he collapses to the feet of horror-stricken passers-by. An ambulance is approaching from the distance. Jan Palach has exactly three days of his life left, but his legacy will remain immortal. The young history student became a symbol of active resistance and fight for liberty in times in which the majority chose to keep quiet and obey the system. The story of Jan Palach remained unforgotten thanks to a few bold individuals who kept fighting after his decease. Czech screenwriter Štěpán Hulík and Polish director Agnieszka Holland immortalized their destiny in a 2013 film.
The screenplay was written as a graduate's project of a student of FAMU (Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts in Prague) and was filmed by the legendary director who had studied at the same school during the Prague Spring period. Both artists have attempted to remain as true to the historic facts as possible. Writing the script, Štěpán Hulík consulted his work with historian Petr Blažek, while Agnieszka Holland used her own experience from her student movement period. A great part of the black-and-white footage is authentic material from 1969. The film hoped to provide as much information as possible, therefore The Burning Bush isn't just a full-length film, it’s a three-part mini-series.
This is why the portrayed atmosphere of the occupation of the late 1960s and the normalization period that followed is extremely credible. No wonder The Burning Bush won eleven Czech Lions Awards out of overall fourteen nominations. Its makers accomplished to depict a timeless story of individual heroism and yet avoid pathos, without simplifying or making it any lighter. Now you can become part of the futile fight that has sense, or the silent procession that mutely shouts out its accusations. Prague, Neratovice, Všetaty - live Czech history where it took place. The Burning Bush was largely filmed in real-life settings.