A new Czech film depicts the true story of the 1913 ski race

Tomáš Hodan’s film about the unfortunate race, which resulted in the death of two Czech skiers Bohumil Hanč and Václav Vrbata, will premiere in Prague on Thursday March 24, exactly 109 years after the tragic event.

Besides recounting the famous event as it actually happened, The Last Race also depicts the hardships of life in the Krkonoše at the turn of the century and sheds light on the relationship between the Czech and German native populations, explains its producer. Ondrej Beranek:

“It was the beginning of skiing and there were two national communities, Czech and German, in the Giant Mountains. They had their own ski clubs, but they never competed due to national rivalry.

“But in this particular race in 1913, they decided to compete together for the first time to see who was the best on skis. That’s why Czech ski master Bohumil Hanč decided to take part in the race although he ended his career a year earlier.

The 50 kilometer race began in sunny weather, but after about an hour conditions suddenly deteriorated. All participants gradually withdrew from the race, except for Hanč, who was in the lead and had no idea what was going on.

Only scantily clad, Hanč got lost in the blizzard and collapsed in the snow. Although he was discovered by fellow German rider Emmerich Rath and brought to safety, he died of exhaustion and hypothermia. Just like his friend Václav Vrbata, who went looking for him.

The famous story of Hanč and Vrbata has already been depicted in a film, but according to Ondřej Beránek, it was not entirely true:

“We decided to tell the story again because we discovered the character of the German from Prague Emmerich Rath, who was somehow erased from the story of the film made in 1956.

“It was 10 years after the Second World War and a German, who had become something of a hero in the story, was not appropriate at the time. That’s why we wanted to tell the story again.

'The Last Race' |  Photo: Punk Movie

The Last Race, starring famous Czech actor Kryštof Hádek in the lead role of Bohumil Hanč, was filmed last winter at the actual location of the race:

“We decided to shoot the film in the exact locations at the top of the Giant Mountains, because we wanted to create an authentic atmosphere.

“We took this as a production and creative challenge and I hope that viewers will feel the extreme conditions on screen and will actually feel cold watching the film in the cinema!”

Berta D. Wells