Closely Watched Trains
„Life, that is fidelity to bitter beauties, sometimes for the price of one's own life.“
Closely Watched Trains
The film Closely Watched Trains offers a little bit of something for everyone. If you like trains, you will appreciate that most of the film takes place at a train station. If you like history, know that the story is based on true events - the fight between partisans and fascists during the German occupation. If you like the fine and bittersweet humour of Bohumil Hrabal's writing you will most definitely enjoy this masterpiece.
The railway is for life. It either swallows you whole, or matters very little to you. The railway as a road - a pair of tracks from spot A to countless other destinations, it's the sense of life and passion. The perspective of tracks connecting in one point is like a metaphor for the fate of the main hero. The occupation that will change your life, the way it did for the new entrant Miloš Hrma. Closely Watched Trains is about the transformation of a boy into a man, a man who decides to take life into his hands and influence his environment.
The landscape behind the window is a film of its own, and the window is a camera lens letting you to watch it. Raindrops give the picture a certain impressionist mood. Sunlight, on the other hand, makes the outlines sharper and smudges the content. Sometimes the window turns into a mirror and you can see your own reflection. The viewer sits in his train seat, while the outside scenery passes by like a motion picture on the silver screen. The tunnels and stations on the way stand for editors. The transmission line hanging on the poles by the rail establishes an illusion of moving arches. In this case, they substitute animated and experimental films.
The scene in which dispatcher Hubička stamps the behind of Zdenička is one of the most memorable moments in Czech cinematography. Did you know that the actual hand stamping isn't the one of Josef Somr, actor of dispatcher Hubička, but of the one of the director Jiří Menzel himself? At least that is what the rumour among film fans says. The poetry of the Closely Watched Trains received the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1968. Fun fact is that nobody was initially interested in the subject; before Jiří Menzel expressed interest, it had been rejected by directors Juraj Herz and Eval Schorm.