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. Still, for my first viewing, I was, on the whole, charmed by the movie and genuinely shocked by its deliberately dark ending. On that basis, I recommend CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS---and i'm sure if I finally understand everything about the movie upon a second viewing, I might add a star to my current four-star rating.