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Closely Watched Trains

Closely Watched Trains -

This Czech comedy, which sort of reminded me of American Pie - Czech Pie, if you will - is set during the country's German occupation during World War II. It stars Václav Neckář as Milos, an apprentice train dispatcher who is eager to end the tradition of his forefathers not exactly contributing during times of crisis. He's also eager, as the first sentence implies, to, umm...lose it.

Most of the laughs, and they're all good ones, result from Milos's encounters with Masa (the charming Jitka Bendová), a conductor with whom he shares an attraction, but who is on the go much more than he would like. I also ended up laughing whenever Nazi loyalist Zedníček (Vlastimil Brodský, who is also a highlight of When the Cat Comes) appears on screen because whether it's the train station staff's refusal to take him seriously or his self-importance, he's a reliable subject of ridicule. Oh, and you're assuming that Milo's, umm…condition is a metaphor for the condition of the Czech people during this occupation, you would be right and not just because of how you also probably assume the movie ends. I don't love everything about this movie: it drags more than I would like; also, it’s too darkly lit at times and the basic and blocky camerawork make it hard to watch sometimes. I still think it deserves to be called one of the gems of the Czech New Wave and it stands alongside The Firemen's Ball as a classic example of the county’s comedy.