Director Roman Vávra has documented the intense and powerful story of the final years of Jiří Bělohlávek's life and artistic pilgrimage. The documentary expounds the conductor's wisdom, maturity, mastery and empathy. It is replete with the director's creative and frank portrayal of a person who profoundly influenced the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.
For two years the film crew followed conductor Jiří Bělohlávek in his work with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and his liaisons with close friends such as the painter Jiří Voves, his colleagues Semyon Bychkov and Simon Rattle, and his former students-turned-friends, world-renowned conductors such as Jakub Hrůša and Tomáš Hanus. Above all, however, they followed his friendship with his closest associate and the person who brought him back to the Czech Republic and the Rudolfinum: David Mareček, CEO of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, who conditioned his leadership of the Philharmonic upon Jiří Bělohlávek being principal conductor in 2011. In taking this fundamental step, the Philharmonic regained a strength previously apparent only in its most remarkable seasons under the management of personages such as Václav Talich, Karel Ančerl and Václav Neumann.
Jiří Bělohlávek worked under Neumann in the 1970s, also taking over his baton as principal conductor after November 1989. However, he left the orchestra in 1992 after a vote of confidence was called for. It was at this point that his most severe crisis, both artistic and perhaps even personal, occurred. Notwithstanding, he succeeded in turning the situation around in his favour. He founded and led the Prague Philharmonia, then went overseas and established himself both personally and professionally as a world-class artist.
After many very successful years, he accepted David Mareček's offer and stepped back on to the thin ice of an orchestra that wanted him back again, despite neither party being quite sure what would happen…
Jiří Bělohlávek speaks very openly in the film about his famous Czech Philharmonic Orchestra predecessors, his beginnings, his mental attitude towards music and conducting, and about his family. The Bělohláveks' confidence in the film-makers was so high that they gave them access to their family archive of "Super 8" films, most of which were shot by Jiří Bělohlávek himself. The film crew also aimed to capture the main protagonist's relaxedness and humour: the media has presented him in such a way that for the most part, besides his supreme professionalism, the uninitiated cultural community associates him with a certain reservedness.
One of Jiří Bělohlávek's most impressive achievements in his final year with the orchestra was rehearsing Dvořák's Stabat Mater. It was through this oratorio that his dearest student, conductor Jakub Hrůša and the freshly orphaned orchestra bid him farewell before a moved and full-house audience at the Rudolfinum. The concert took place in honour of the conductor when he passed away in May 2017 after a long-term illness.
Moderated by Jiří Vejvoda.