INT: Once you described that the difference between capitalist and communist society, or working in capitalist and communist society as a filmmaker is kind of difference as working in the jungle and zoo.
MF: Well, I tell you, it is a question for very (Laughs)... in my opinion, very pertinent now in the post-communist world, because people are confused, and the fact is that it's... you know, you have to really decide where you want to live: if you want to live in the jungle or in the zoo. Because if you want the beauty, if you want freedom, the jungle is... that's your world. But you're in danger there, you have to live with snakes, sharks, tigers, skunks, you know, mosquitoes, leeches. You want to be safe, you have to live in the zoo. You are protected. You know, if you are a lamb, the tiger will not attack you. You know, you'll get a little bit something to eat every day; that's fine. You have to work hard, but you live behind the bars, and what's wonderful - you live there behind the bars and you dream about the beauty of the jungle. Now what happened was that the bars opened, and everybody runs after the dream. And suddenly, well, yeah, it's beautiful - yes, I am free to go wherever I want, do whatever I want, but where do I want to go? Oh, my God, and here is a tiger and here's a snake. Oh, oh, and people have a tendency to, you know, back. And you will be surprised how many people prefer to live in the zoo; they are not ready to pay for the freedom; they think that freedom should be, you know, for free, even for granted, which never is, never is. And that's the worst... I tell you, in my opinion, the cornerstone of democracy is free press - that's the cornerstone. I'm convinced if the press... it was not possible, of course, but if the free press existed through this century, there wouldn't be Hitler there wouldn't Stalin, there wouldn't be all this incredible price people have to pay for their freedom, you know, because that's what they're always first after: they're first after going out to... aft you know, newspapers, radio, television, everything like that. And, well, I don't know...
INT: You were in America when Prague Spring happened in Prague, but you came back to Prague during '68. What was the difference, what hit you when you came back?
MF: Well, that was... (Laughs) that was a totally absurd situation, because I was working on a script on Jean Claude Carrière, on a script for my first American movie and we started in the US, we were in April we were in New York. And suddenly, you know, you couldn't concentrate on anything but television. Martin Luther King is assassinated, the riots, you know, and all these things. So I said, "Well, listen, let's go somewhere where it's quiet: let's go to Paris." So in May we come to Paris. You know what happened in 1968 in Paris, you know. I didn't see Jean Claude for three weeks - he was on the barricades, you know. So finally when I found him on the barricades and tended to his wounds... no, I'm kidding... I said, "OK, let's go to Prague: Prague is no exciting, quiet city." So we arrived to Prague in August '68, you know. And what was fascinating - that because Jean Claude said, "Listen, you are stupid if you think that the Russians will not come in. Nobody can believe that." "I don't know - it can't happen."
INT: Did you believe that the Russians...?
MF: I listened to Jean Claude. I was never a very political man, you know. It bores me to analyze, you know, newspapers, political pages, you know. So I left with Jean Claude and went to Paris, so when the Russians came to Prague, I was in Paris.
INT: So could you describe the night, how it was when you heard that Russians are coming?
MF: (Laughs) That was incredible. I remember... we were sitting... Jean Claude lives... I stayed with him on Pigalle, which is, you know, the red-light district of Paris, right? Fancy, but still red light. And we spent the whole evening together with Jean Pierre Assam and Jean Claude in one bar, a small bar on the corn and talking to some prostitutes there, just making... you know, more or less innocently, you know, very innocently, as a matter of fact. And then, you know, around midnight it was - you know, our friend Jean Pierre got so drunk that, you know, we said, "We have to..." and he paid the prostitute, you know, a lot of money, ten times more than you normally would pay, so the girl felt obliged and, "No, listen, I'll take care of him, I'll take care of him - I'll give him a cold shower and I will... you know... You know, listen, I was paid," you know. OK, so she took... and Jean Pierre was drunk. And I'm going with Jean Claude home, and at that time he had a huge apartment that, you know, slept like 10 different people: you know, his mother-in-law, his wife, some friend of his wife, several people in different rooms. And we... go to sleep, I go to sleep in my room. And suddenly, you know, the telephone rings all over the apartment. Everybody wakes up. You know, I thought it's not for me - you know, nobody knows... Jean Claude comes - "It's for you." I pick up the phone, and it's Jean Pierre, you know, saying, (Drunk voice) "Listen... open the radio: the Russians are occupying Czechoslovakia." "Oh, come on, stop stupid jokes," I said, and I hung up. So everybody went back to sleep. Five minutes later again the telephone rang. Everybody... "Open the radio! Listen to the radio!" Well, what happened was that the poor prostitute, you know, to sober him up, put him under the really cold show and to make a good atmosphere she turned on the radio, music on the radio, but the music on the radio was suddenly interrupted (Laughs) by the announcement... you know, it was like 2.30 in the morning or 2 in the morning... by the announcement that the Russian army and the Soviet(s), you know, are occupying Czechoslovakia; and because he was suddenly sobered by the cold, you know, show so he picked up the phone and started to call me. I was sure he was still drunk, so that was how... Why am I talking about this?
INT: Did you believe in Dubcek, in his reform?
MF: Well, listen, you know, the Czech saying is, you know, when you are drowning you are grabbing even a little twig. That's what all Czechs were doing, grabbing for... with the hope for this little twig. Today, with the distance, you can see that that man didn't have the (Sighs) moral strength and... he might have it inside himself, but not for the people, and he didn't have the authority to really do things, you know. He just was not de Gaulle.
INT: I understood that you were...
MF: Or Winston Churchill. Sorry.
INT: (Laughs) I understood that you were once in front of the building of Central Committee when Dubcek came out, and people applaud him, and then Novotny came and everyone turned their back to him. Do you remember it? Could you describe it?
MF: No, that was not me.
INT: It wasn't you?
INT: It was one of your friends, I would say, writing about it in the book. (Laughs)
INT: Maybe it was somebody...
MF: Memories are doing funny things to us.
INT: (Laughs) , don't worry about it. But basically, in '68, did you have any belief to Dubcek, or not really - in that... not when you are looking now back to...?
INT: Then, in sixty...
MF: Everybody was giving him a little benefit of a doubt, little chance that he might be able, with his sort of almost angelic honesty, persuade Brezhnev or the Russian hard-liners, you know, and mainly the traitors... you know, these Bilaks, these total snakes, that he can manage, you know. But it was very, you know... immediately when this thought appeared to you, you told yourself, "No, that's impossible." And......
INT: What did you feel when you came back in '68 and suddenly there was free press and everything was out in the open and things were happening, (Overlap) and Firemen's Ball was brought in...?
MF: What was funny [was] that, you know, before, you know, in the Fifties and like that, you know, people were looking over their shoulders, you know, who could be following you, and if they had some ... you know, somebody brought from West some newspaper it was in the pockets, deep in the pockets. In the Sixties, in the euphoria of free press, everybody was talking freely and at the same time looking over their shoulders, because it was not... it was... I think it was a freedom in spasm, spasmodic freedom, that people were really... it was like unleashed by fever you know; it was not really a comfortable freedom. It was not.
INT: ... Why it wasn't comfortable freedom?
MF: Because I think that everybody somehow back on their mind felt that it could end any moment, that it's... nobody really believed that the armies will come, but everybody was afraid of the internal... you know, traitors of the secret police, SDB, the hard-line communists, because they were absolutely... they proved how ruthless and cruel they can be, you know.