Sunday Feature-Week 18: Closely Watched Trains (1966)

Title: Closely Watched Trains

Tone: A lighthearted Czech new-wave film with starkly dark sub-text

Who:

Director-Jiří Menzel

Cast- Václav Neckář, Jitka Bendová, Vlastimil Brodský

When: 1966

What: Set during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in WWII, a young trainee at a train station struggles to lose his virginity.

Why:

  • Keeping with the theme of Jonathan Ade’s guest post, Prague spring and teenage sexuality à la Czech new-wave, this week we present Closely Watched Trains a Czech new-wave masterpiece.
  • Winner of the Grand Prize at the 1966 Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival and also winner of Best Foreign Film at the 1968 Academy Awards, Closely Watched Trains stands as one of the best examples of Czech new-wave. Subtlety dark and comically absurd, cast with non-actors or amateur-actors, and a strong sense of openness and creative freedom are the defining characteristics of Czech new-wave, and Closely Watched Trains exhibits them all.
  • One of the most refreshing aspects of Closely Watched Trains is how it deliberately maintains a lighthearted and comedic surface while smuggling in seriously dark sub-text. The film is set during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, a time during which the Nazi party was pushing for autonomy in Sudetenland (the western regions of Czechoslovakia). As the film progresses the Nazi-party rears its ugly head and the seriousness of their occupation (and the station’s opposition) is made more and more apparent.
  • Overall Closely Watched Trains is a marvelous blend of absurdity, poignancy, and richly dark undertones. The clip below is a good example of this. Milos (the trainee) finds himself unable to perform in bed with the girl he’s been pursuing. Enjoy!

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~ by cinematte on May 2, 2010.

2 Responses to “Sunday Feature-Week 18: Closely Watched Trains (1966)”

  1. Wow, this looks GREAT. Also, exhausting, as prolonged discomfort always is.

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