Friday, November 19, 2010

#197 Ostre Sledované Vlaky [Closely Watched Trains] (1967)


Director: Jirí Menzel

Cast: Václav Nekár, Josef Somr, Vlastimil Brodsky, Vladimír Valenta, Alois Vachek, Ferdinand Kruta, Jitka Bendová

Milo (Nekár) is a wide-eyed Czech boy who has just inherited his father's position as train dispatcher at the local train station. He enjoys the job because it means he doesn't have to do "any real hard work." He is quiet, nervous, and skinny, and he tries his best to take after his superior Hubika (Somr), a ladies' man and rule-breaker.

Milo finds himself sweet on a young female conductor, and the two begin a bit of an innocent romance. When she prompts Milo to become physical, Milo's nervousness gets in the way. Depressed and embarrassed, he acts out with self-mutilation and telling anyone who has a pair of ears about his problem. He is determined to find an older woman to give him experience, so he can make love to his girlfriend.

All of this happens amidst World War II, but unlike other films, this one in no way glorifies it-- it is incidental and not center-stage, though it does play an important part in the conclusion of the film. When Milo and Hubika agree to take part in a plan to destroy one of the enemy's ammunition trains, things go a bit awry.

Though quiet, black and white, and in subtitles-- the slowness of this film was neither agitating or daunting. Milo's innocence was endearing and relatable, and the tragic end of the film was not changed from the original novel's.

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