Archive of films Closely Watched Trains / Ostře sledované vlaky
1966, 85 min
Section: Out of the Past
We cannot escape our destiny, not even at a secluded little railway station in the middle of nowhere. Here, apprentice train dispatcher Miloš Hrma experiences both despair and bliss, becoming a man and, immediately afterwards, a tragic hero. Adapted from Hrabal’s novella of the same name, the film is akin to a poem about the fragility and complexity of youth as it examines the reality that no-one is born courageous. Menzel’s Closely Watched Trains is the third title to be renovated through the České bijáky Foundation, together with the NFA and KVIFF.
An Italian university professor and authority on Bohumil Hrabal’s work once described the writer as a "divine railwayman.” Wouldn’t this flattering designation be appropriate, in fact, for young Miloš Hrma, even if he does begin the story as a lowly apprentice train dispatcher? Do we know anyone else with such a "divinely” astonished gaze, innocent expression and artless manner? Miloš is failing in his attempts to lose his virginity and, when the pretty train conductress Máša makes a beeline for him, it’s no surprise that his manhood issues start to engulf him. Yet it seems that all the characters at this godforsaken little train station are wrapped up in their own private world as well, despite the fact that the war is on and times are hard. The film envelops its viewers in a nostalgic mood; filled with sparkling quips and anecdotes, it radiates a pure, lyrical beauty, and then suddenly tips over into tragedy. A little tale of ordinary people which ultimately becomes a big story about the brutality of war, love and death.
About the director
Jiří Menzel (b. 1938, Prague, Czechoslovakia), whose work has long served as a beacon for generations of Czech filmmakers, created Closely Watched Trains at the start of his career, producing a work of unusual subtlety and perhaps his most precious gem. He is inevitably, and justifiably, mentioned in terms of his close association with Bohumil Hrabal, for whose inimitable style – combining mesmeric imagination with raw reality – Menzel’s talented eye has always found the appropriate film expression. It couldn’t have been the mere retelling of Hrabal’s prose which earned Menzel a thunderous standing ovation at an important cultural event in Venice in 1998, thirty-one years after his Oscar win. The somewhat faded quality of the film print is said to have contributed at the time to the poetic charm of the piece, but the film will surely enchant us once again in its new, digitally restored version.
About the film
Black & white, DCP
|Section:||Out of the Past|
|Screenplay:||Bohumil Hrabal, Jiří Menzel|
|Dir. of Photography:||Jaromír Šofr|
|Production:||Filmové studio Barrandov|
|Cast:||Václav Neckář, Josef Somr, Jitka Zelenohorská, Jitka Bendová, Vladimír Valenta, Vlastimil Brodský, Naďa Urbánková, Jiří Menzel|
|Contact:||National Film Archive|
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Director of Photography
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