Closely Observed Trains (Ostre sledované vlaky),1966.
Directed by Jiří Menzel.
Starring Václav Neckár, Josef Somr, Vladimír Valenta, Alois Vachek and Ferdinand Kruta.
An apprentice train dispatcher at a village station seeks his first sexual encounter and becomes despondent when he is unable to perform.
Growing up sure isn’t easy. When you add World War II and Nazi occupation into the mix, adolescent difficulties quantify rapidly…
That’s certainly the case in this award winning and well loved 1966 film from Jirí Menzel. A prominent example of the Czech new wave, Closely Observed Trains follows the exploits of young Miloš (Václav Neckár) as he tries to negotiate sexual desires with the realities of a war torn home.
What at first glance may seem like a light-hearted sex comedy, the film also includes an astute commentary on the processes of Czech partisan groups fighting back at Nazi occupation. Miloš becomes embroiled in this via his lecherous and rebellious work mentor Hubicka (Josef Somr). Acting as an advisor to various resistance groups seeking to upset the occupying Nazi forces, Hubicka lets Miloš in on a plot to blow up a German courier train.
What makes Closely Observed Trains stand out brightly in what could have otherwise been a somewhat grim expose of war activity are the comedic elements. There is a bawdy, earthy tone to the piece, which when viewed alongside Miloš problems in achieving sexual satisfaction provide a humanistic counterpoint to the perils of war and political upheaval. Menzel himself appears as the doctor Miloš asks for help with his delicate issue. The professional answer? Get some experience. Miloš certainly gets that in both a sexual and a political sense as the realities of life become ever more stark…
The winner of a best foreign language movie in 1966, the film contains a haunting existential nature about it – not something that could be said of many teen sex comedies it might be argued…
Blu-ray Features include:
- New 4K restoration by the Czech National Film Archive
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Original Czech soundtrack in uncompressed PCM mono audio
- Optional English subtitles
- Appreciation by Peter Hames, author of The Czechoslovak New Wave
- Archival interviews with director Jirí Menzel, cinematographer Jaromír Šofr and film historian Jan Lukeš
- Closely Observed Films: Michael Brooke explores the six-film collaboration between Menzel and novelist Bohumil Hrabal
- Reversible sleeve featuring two pieces of artwork from the original release
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.