Friday, February 1, 2013

Prague as Moscow...Paris...Vienna...Warsaw...

By Drew Martin
In a very short scene in Mission Impossible III, Tom Cruise as agent Ethan Hunt disguises himself as Pavel Sobotka, a scruffy Bohemian. Sobota/sobotka means Saturday in Czech. Cruise even poorly utters two sentences in Czech to an airport ticket agent, "V Číně jsem ještě nebyl. Je tam hezky?" (I haven't been to China yet. Is it nice there?). The Czech cover is not random.

Movie trivialists say Hunt obtains the Czech passport in the first movie, but this scene is somewhat comical and does not tie the viewer to Prague, where that movie is set and filmed. The Mission Impossible (IV) - Ghost Protocol street scenes of Moscow are actually Prague, and the courtyard shots of the Kremlin are on the grounds of the Prague castle. It is interesting that three of the four films have a Czech connection. This made me think about other cities for which Prague has been the substitute. In addition to Cruise's Moscow, Prague was Warsaw in Yentl, Paris in The Bourne Identity and Vienna in Amadeus, which was directed by the great Czech director Miloš Forman. Prague has a multitude of locations and a very strong film history, centered around Barrandov Studios.

Once, to my surprise, I was walking around the West Village in New York City and happened upon a Prague street, which was designed for an episode of Law and Order. The exterior of the Blue Mill Tavern was masked with Alfons Mucha designs and cars on the streets had Czech or German license plates. It was not a believable scene but it was still interesting to see an attempt made to create a place that has served as a location for so many other places.