The Dream Factory on the Vltava The Dream Factory on the Vltava
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The Dream Factory on the Vltava

The Story of Barrandov Film Studios
Mateusz Demski
time 12 minutes

The sound of the film clapper first rang out in the Barrandov studio in 1933. Founded by the Havel brothers (the father and uncle of the future president, Václav Havel), it played host not only to Czech, but also to American and Polish directors. Casino Royale was filmed there, and the studio has played the role of Narnia.

The hilltop studio is just under 10 kilometres from the city centre; the quickest way to get there is by tram No. 5 – a ride of 20-30 minutes. It’s relatively close, but in certain ways it’s not the same Prague. You get the impression that rather than the Czech capital, you’re in Hollywood. Construction of a film studio first began there in 1931: the biggest in central Europe, and one of the largest in the world. Spreading out over 120 hectares, it can’t be taken in in a single glance – just like its 90 years of history. “The dream factory on the Vltava”, “the hill of movie magic”, “an institution of memory” – these are some of the names by which Barrandov has been known.

“This complex is proof,” says 80-year-old Mira Haviarová, who knows Barrandov and its history well, because under communism, as the head of the Czechoslovak Film Institute, she would come here to supervise the workshops. Today, she’s a studio consultant for Central and Eastern European, Russian and Caucasus cinema. “Proof of what?” I ask. “That the dream of creating cinema can sometimes take on an unlikely form.”

Barrandov: city of dreams

Haviarová believes that since the beginning, Barrandov has been an expression of love for the cinema, but the initial plan was for a ‘garden city’ – a modern villa district. In 1927, the land for the development was bought by Václav M. Havel, a construction entrepreneur and the father of the future president. Construction began after a few years. First to spring up were ostentatious homes, immediately followed by


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