Sunday Feature-Week 18: Closely Watched Trains (1966)
Title: Closely Watched Trains
Tone: A lighthearted Czech new-wave film with starkly dark sub-text
- 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!