The Cervanova Case, or Truth is simple, lie is complex

A documentary tragedy about the right to justice directed by Robert Kirchhoff

Eight years ago I decided to record the court process with the alleged murderers of a young medical student that took place in 1976. It is the longest court case in the history of the Czechoslovak justice referred to in court records as The Cervanová Case.

I discovered that the entire story was based on a sequence of events that had directly affected the lives of several dozen people. I was interested in questions that have directly or indirectly arisen from the doubts surrounding the case. I was interested in the truth. I did not attempt for a reconstruction of the criminal case. I wanted to provide a universal image of “crime and punishment” with political subtext. The film does not aim at searching for the murderers or proving anyone innocent. The message is not to identify the perpetrators. That is the responsibility of the courts of justice. However, it seems that this case was a complete failure of justice. In a certain respect, this endless and mysterious case represents the story of our country and its power structures, and it convincingly portrays the period of Czechoslovak normalization. Although this period is long gone, its “men of power” endure time and transformations in the society. A criminal act has thus become a means of representing the mechanism of fear, absurdity and the peculiar workings of fate allowing elites to abuse power and the right to career advancement to eventually come to believe in their own lies.


Robert Kirchhoff, February 2013