– The period action drama meets the biopic in Tomáš Mašín’s film about freedom, sacrifice, and resilience, telling the story of a family that stood against dual tyrannies
Oskar Hes and Jan Nedbal in Brothers
Brothers [+see also:
film profile], the latest film by Tomáš Mašín (Wilson City [+see also:
film profile], Silent Secrets), in Czech and Slovakian theatres with CinemArt and CinemArt Slovakia respectively since 26 October, has been The Czech Film and Television Academy has selected as the country’s submission for the American Academy Awards. Mašín dedicated a decade to the project, which delves into domestically well-known yet controversially-regarded true events, centred around an anti-Communist resistance group led by Josef and Ctirad Mašín. The group successfully fled to West Berlin in 1953, despite a nationwide manhunt and casualties. Penned by Marek Epstein (Charlatan [+see also:
interview: Agnieszka Holland
film profile], the forthcoming film Franz – read the news), Brothers portrays a part of the totalitarian chapter in Czech(oslovak) history and the courage to defy the oppressive regime.
In the context of contemporary Czech cinema, Brothers melds historical narrative — chiefly portraying the Communist era — and the tropes of the period biopic (Zátopek [+see also:
interview: David Ondříček
film profile], Charlatan, and Il Boemo [+see also:
interview: Petr Vaclav
film profile], among others). The film briefly refers to the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in its prologue, and against this backdrop is introduced the Mašín brothers’ father, General Josef Mašín, who was part of an anti-Nazi resistance group. His legacy and acts of rebellion provide a thematic framework for the film as Epstein and the director zero in predominantly on his dramatic escape from behind the Iron Curtain, donning a genre lens which sets their film apart from the conventional template of domestic biopics.
In the unfolding drama, young Josef (Oskar Hes) and Ctirad (Jan Nedbal) Mašín strive for normality under Communist rule. The former is nearing the end of high school, while the latter is immersed in his university studies. Their mother, Zdena (Tatiana Vilhelm Dyková), staunchly resists Communist conformism, drawing swift backlash from the authorities. In consequence, the younger Mašín faces graduation denial and Ctirad risks university expulsion, should Zdena refuse to fall in line. Their situation worsens when they are evicted from their home and relegated to a decrepit farmhouse. Influenced by their father’s belief that armed resistance is the only answer to tyranny, the boys begin a series of acts against the oppressive regime. This escalates to violence, making them a focal point for State Security Captain Koller (Stefan Konarske), who emerges as a relentless enforcer.
A local manhunt initially aimed at unidentified culprits escalates into a chase when the brothers, aided by three friends and their uncle Ctibor Novák (Václav Neužil), orchestrate an escape to West Berlin. Mašín captures this quest for freedom as an action-driven drama, balancing intense shootouts with scenes of stealth and survivalism. The genre treatment echoes the approach Peter Bebjak took in his Holocaust movie The Auschwitz Report [+see also:
interview: Peter Bebjak
While framing the biopic within the context of an action drama, Brothers paints a country steeped in surveillance, mistrust, and subversion. The director and the writer not only spotlight Josef and Ctirad but also show their entire family, including their mother and sister, Nenda (Karolína Lea Nováková). The film thus sketches a family portrait, with each member resisting oppression in their own unique manner. The narrative incorporates the Mašín women, figures who might traditionally have been sidelined in period action dramas and history. The exploration of familial bonds, the indomitable human spirit, and the moral ambiguities of war and resistance enrich the film, prompting a contemplation on personal and collective freedom and the cost of sacrifice, all within the boundaries of mainstream film fare.
Brothers was produced by Czech outfit FilmBrigade, and co-produced by German production company Rohfilm Production, Slovak firm PubRes and Czech Television. The Czech Film Fund, the Slovak Audiovisual Fund and Eurimages have supported the project. The Yellow Affair is attached as the international sales agent.