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Closely Watched Trains


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Product Details

  • Actors: Václav Neckár, Josef Somr, Vlastimil Brodský, Vladimír Valenta, Alois Vachek
  • Directors: Jirí Menzel
  • Writers: Jirí Menzel, Bohumil Hrabal
  • Producers: Carlo Ponti, Zdenek Oves
  • Format: Black & White, DVD-Video, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: Czech
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: Sept. 18 2001
  • Run Time: 93 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005NFZB
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #45,383 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

Product Description

Product Description

At a village railway station in occupied Czechoslovakia, a bumbling dispatcher's apprentice longs to liberate himself from his virginity. Oblivious to the war and the resistance that surrounds him, this young man embarks on a journey of sexual awakening and self-discovery, encountering a universe of frustration, eroticism, and adventure within his sleepy backwater depot. Wry and tender, Academy Award®-winning Closely Watched Trains is a masterpiece of human observation and one of the best-loved films of the Czech New Wave.

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Jiri Menzel's funny, tragic 1966 film, set during the years of Germany's occupation of Czechoslovakia, may be admired today more out of nostalgia than anything, but in fact it holds up very well as a wry satire from the years of the Czech New Wave. Vaclav Neckar stars as an unambitious youth whose chief preoccupation is a wish for sex, but who secondarily sees the draw of joining the organized Resistance movement. The latter, however, would require energy and focus, and Neckar's character--who does as little work as possible as an apprentice railway platform guard--prefers the inertia of his small-town depot. Spending his time observing the philandering of an older guard, keeping clear of his wild-eyed boss, and flirting with the female conductor of a passing train, the young hero has his priorities in order but must deal with an increasing responsibility to a larger rebellion. The film has a nice mix of rural lethargy, surreal hints, and comic knowingness about the landscape of teenage ambivalence. Finally, there is something else: the shock of a confrontation between dreams and real-world obligation, particularly in a world gone mad through no fault of one's own. --Tom Keogh --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Raghupathy Ponnusamy on June 10 2004
Format: DVD
I got an opportunity to see this film when I was in UK during 2001-'02. I have borrowed VHS cassette of this film from local library. Before that I have no idea about Czech new wave cinema or Jiri Menzel. After seeing this film, I could not able to resist myself to see this film again and again. The film script was well-written, fantastic performance by all actors especially the actor who acted as Milos. The photography is Black-White magic (nice DVD transfer - still you can see can the freshness of movie print). The music is also fantastic, especially the music which comes during the scene where Milos had taken by the SS Army people. Three months before I have been to USA and first thing I did was order this DVD in Amazon.com. I have seen this DVD 7-10 times after I bought this.
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Format: DVD
I watched Jiri Menzel's CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS today, and right now the best praise I can give it is that I'd definitely be willing to sit through this one again. I didn't fully catch all the subtle political satire that some reviewers claim are in this film, and thus I'd be willing to watch it again to see if I can catch these added nuances to what is already a very good film.
So what caught my eye this first time? I think simply the quiet texture of the film is what I liked about it most---it captures the rhythms of this sleepy little town in an authentic manner. I was amused by the character of Milos Hrma: as WWII rages on around him, he focuses on not doing too much (as a wannabe train dispatcher, he doesn't have to do all that much) as well as losing his virginity. In other people, that would be called ignorance; in Milos' case, it's pure innocence. And I suppose it must have been a rather daring feat at the time (1966) for Menzel to juxtapose wry human comedy with the undertone of WWII. In short, I liked its insights into human nature, I liked its slow pace---nothing truly significant happens for most of the picture, and yet we're intrigued anyway---I enjoyed its subtle eroticism, and I was rather fascinated by the main character, even if he himself wasn't necessarily the most fascinating character around.
Maybe I'm just stupid, but I wasn't sure why such a big deal was made by the disciplinary commission over the stamping incident involving Zdenka and train dispatcher Hubicka. I'm sure perhaps Menzel was making some kind of sly, subtle political statement was being made there, but I'm not quite sure what exactly. That is why, if I ever get the chance to see this film again, I would not mind it to perhaps catch the nuances I missed this first time.
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Format: DVD
Set in Czechoslovakia in the 40s during the German occupation, Jiri Menzel's "CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS" is a wry satire that helped establish the Czech New Wave.
Milos (Vaclav Neckar) is a virginal, naive, teenage apprentice railway depot platform guard in a village outside Prague. He is preoccupied with wishing for sex. He considers, and is even attracted to, joining the Resistance but that would require serious effort. So he spends his time doing as little as possible and flirting with the female conductor of a passing train.
This dark comedy is also a wonderful coming of age story in which the loss of innocence naturally parallels the greater losses in the increasingly mad world Milos inhabits.
Small town misadventures and petty rivalries are suddenly forced into a new perspective with the indomitable presence of the Germans and the surprising but inevitable hand of destiny. This is a comedy about Everyman enjoying his little realm of freedom and the System that eventually devoured it.
In some ways, this film has renewed meaning in our rapidly shrinking world where we question old beliefs and increasingly welcome the surrender of cherished Freedoms for the illusion of greater Security. Difficult issues that great films can clarify -- and obfuscate.
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