Contemporary Czech films and TV series often dive into the nation’s communist – or more accurately socialist – past. This spatiotemporal setting is usually used as a thematic backdrop over which the filmmakers place their characters, who are challenged by the regime’s tyrannic ideology and social issues. While the 2020 TV miniseries Actor (dir. Peter Bebjak) in a certain way continues this contemporary trend, it also presents an untraditional protagonist, who symbolically complements the previously more conventional, schematic, or predictable characters: since Actor’s homosexual protagonist, Stanislav Láník, is aware of his own unsafe position within the rigid anti-homosexual socialist regime, he chooses to exploit his sexual orientation to climb up the party’s power ladder.
This audiovisual essay explores Láník’s multi-layered character, uncovering it through the dictionary definitions of the adjective “potent.” This word has mainly three meanings – 1) cogent; persuasive; 2) having or exercising greater power or influence; 3) being capable of sexual intercourse. The essay does not separate these otherwise polysemous definitions, but combines them into a continuous flow of images and visual storylines which jump across the three episodes of Actor, creating a collage-like mosaic of events and emotions. Throughout the video we are not only following the main character, but dive deep into his motivations and amoral manipulations.
Special emphasis is then placed on the concept of “hegemonic masculinity,” which unconsciously forms Stanislav Láník’s desires and which forces him to portray himself as a socially “unproblematic” heterosexual. This concept – unfolded in the audiovisual essay – points to the broader question of hiding one’s true sexuality, which was a necessary choice in the Stalinist regime, but which often prevails even today.
Jan Kinzl is a Master’s student at the Department of Film Studies at Charles University in Prague. He creates audiovisual essays which are at the border between film theory and practice and which he publishes in Filmový přehled and Film a doba. His audiovisual essay ‘Cracks in the Czech Film Heritage’ (made with Max Stejskal) was selected for the audiovisual section of the Screen Studies Conference 2023. He collaborates with the National Film Archive and, throughout the year, with a number of Czech film festivals, such as the Karlovy Vary IFF, Ji.hlava IDFF and Zlatý Voči IFF.