In competition for Documentary at this year’s 55th Chicago International Film Festival, Forman vs. Forman takes a look into the life of Czech director Milos Forman. An accomplished figure, having directed over 10 features and 3 documentaries, Forman struggled throughout his career with balancing his Czech background while living in America. The documentary, directed by Jacub Hejna and Helena Trestíková, uses archival footage to tell the struggle of a man who had to split his life between his home country and a new country.
Milos Forman began making films during the Czech New Wave era with creative freedom not seen from the big studio movies in his country at the time. Those movies were made to appease the Communist powers of the country, so young filmmakers took to making political statements in their own work. This put Czechoslovakian filmmaking on the international cinema radar, especially with Forman’s Loves of a Blonde. Forman went on to America in order to make Taking Off. Due to poor reception, he decided to stay in America to make another film before returning home. It took him three years to finally direct One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which won him an Oscar for Best Director.
During the time of his critical success in Europe with Loves of a Blonde, the Soviet Union invaded Prague. Once Forman went to America to direct, he realized that if he ever returned to Prague, he would not be allowed to leave. So he stayed decided to stay in America to continue to make films. Forman vs. Forman illustrates the difficult issues Forman faced from growing up making political films to moving to a foreign country and being unable to return to his home. Milos Forman spoke fondly of his country and criticized the oppression that his country faced. The documentary discusses the difficulties and homesickness he faced when he first came to America. As he went on to make more films, he seemed to settle into his American life, although he never forgot where he came from. When filming Amadeus, which he also won a Best Directing Oscar for, he decided to return to Prague in order to shoot it.
Forman vs. Forman is a heartfelt look into a great director’s tumultuous life. Unfortunately, Milos Forman passed away in April of 2018. His films live on, however, and through this documentary, his struggles and perseverance to overcome them will also be remembered.