Numerous directors have filmed Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, most notably Richard Brooks in 1958 and Russians Kirill Lavrov, Ivan Pyryev and Mikhail Ulyanov in a 1969 joint effort. Now Czech director Petr Zelenka (Wrong Side Up, Year Of The Devil) thinks the novel's time has come again.
"It's quite a thrilling story," Zelenka says. "It's sort of a detective story because you're looking for a killer, so this is like the outside layer. Then you have the love story, and then you have tragedy. There's also humour."
This combination helped Zelenka and associate producer John Riley to attract nearly $900,000 in financing without so much as a completed script, with cameras ready to roll this summer in Poland. Cestmir Kopecky, who was one of Zelenka's producers on Year Of The Devil, initially signed on as the Czech producer and secured $220,000 from the Czech state film fund.
At roughly the same time, winter 2005, Karolina Ochab, a producer with Polish company Warsaw Pact Film Production, approached Zelenka looking for a co-production opportunity. Zelenka relished the chance to work with a company that was relatively new to film production. "I wanted a new, unknown film company from Poland because what I hate is when a production company has a lot of projects so you don't know exactly where the money is going," he says.
In Prague, Zelenka introduced Ochab to the stage adaptation of Dostoevsky's book. Suitably impressed, Ochab returned to Poland and applied for funds from the Polish Film Institute - with the project ultimately receiving $335,000 from the PFI.
Ochab also approached Grzegorz Hajdarowicz, who has served as a producer on Peter Greenaway's Nightwatching and Janusz Kaminski's Hania. After reading Zelenka's first draft, Hajdarowicz secured $335,000 through his company Gremi Film Production.
Zelenka is planning a 20-day shoot in the summer in a Krakow steelworks. According to the synopsis, a troupe of actors set up in a rundown factory when they lose their rehearsal space. In the plant are a few remaining workers, who are preoccupied with a personal tragedy which fuses to the plot of Dostoevsky's play.
Zelenka will have a rough cut ready in the autumn and a final, 90-100 minute version completed for a spring 2008 release.