In Robert Hloz’s sci-fi feature debut “Restore Point,” second chances are big business.
In the year 2041, anyone who has an unnatural death has the right to be brought back to life, provided they’ve dutifully created a backup of their personality called a “restore point.”
Naturally, some object to the notion of artificially extending life ad infinitum, wherein the story begins to get complicated.
“I wanted to make a sci-fi film since I was a little kid,” Hloz says, “but I would never guess that it will happen to be my debut. I thought maybe third, fourth film.”
But, as the Czech director recalls, he found himself going through notes for film ideas from screenwriter Tomislav Cecka and one of them began to loom large.
“He came up with an idea for a very realistic sci-fi about our society in the near future, where people can be restored if something bad happens to them,” Hloz says. “I asked him to write me a one-pager with the ideas we discussed, but one week later he delivered the first 80 pages instead.”
The idea appealed to Hloz because it portrayed how one fairly straightforward technological advance could open so many doors to mayhem.
With the restore point idea, he says: “We were able to divide the society. There are people who love using the restore points and people who think it makes your life worthless.”
What’s more, he says, “There were so many moral questions and conflicts, and society pushes you to take sides. It was a great joy to discover all those facets and make the characters to go through a journey where they are forced to question their choices.”
The notion of a life restart also has a universal appeal, Hloz says. “I wanted the story to be ultimately relatable in a way so that everyone who leaves the theater will ask themself and their friends if they would want such a system to exist.”
The restart technology would also confront people with a fascinating dilemma, he says. “Would you choose more freedom, or rather, safety?”
Hloz admits feeling a bit intimidated by the long history of Czech sci-fi films and popular culture, dating from Karel Capek’s invention of the word “robot” in the 1920s to influential space adventures like 1963’s “Ikarie XB 1,” which foreshadowed “Star Trek.”
“There was this big shadow of responsibility over me,” Hloz says. “This is the first big Czech sci-fi in about 60 years. So my biggest task was to put together the best team that would pull this off on an Eastern European budget.”
The director feels he found it in cinematographer Filip Marek, sound designer Samuel Jurkovic, composer Jan Sleska and production designer Ondrej Lipensky, each of whom “poured an incredible amount of love” into the project. With editor Jaroslaw Kaminski (“Cold War,” “Ida”) also on board, Hloz says he had a formidable team.
Shot on several locations where existing brutalist architecture could be incorporated, “Restore Point” was able to embrace “iconic visuals of a futuristic Central Europe,” Hloz says.
“We shot mainly in real locations to keep the whole thing grounded in reality and we shot what we could in camera. We had some stage days, mainly for the hero’s home and also a few stagecraft LED backgrounds.” For effects still needed, he says, the team at Prague’s Magiclab “went great lengths to make everything look great.”
In a way, the film is hoped to bring a kind of restore point to local screens, says Hloz.
“Czech cinema used to be a pioneer of sci-fi,” he says.
Other less-known Czech filmmakers like Vaclav Vorlicek, who made communist-era fantasies, add to the tradition, as does the work of seminal surrealist Jan Svankmajer.
Keeping in the tradition of bold ideas rather than cutting-edge effects suited Hloz and his team well, he says, “to keep the world stylized yet fully believable.”