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Closely Watched Trains

Ostre sledované vlaky
Director: Jiří Menzel

Czechoslovakia, 1966, 89 min., comedy
Jiří Menzel’s adaptation of Bohuml Hrabal’s novel Closely Observed Trains is a black comedy - now tender, now savage, it is a masterpiece of irony and observation. The film also explores the strategies of survival for the everyday person during the Nazi occupation of WWII, in the time of a violent and repressive dictatorship.

Young Miloš (Václav Neckář) follows his train-spotting father's footsteps into a job at a provincial railway station. Resolved to do as little actual work as possible, Miloš focuses on flirting with a comely conductress, avoiding the wrath of the stationmaster and struggling to lose his virginity. In matters both professional and personal Miloš is tutored by a platform guard, the ladies’ man and part-time resistance fighter Hubička (Josef Somr), whose own amorous adventures climax with the rubber-stamping of the station telegraph operator's shapely hinder. The sleepy train depot forms a seemingly self-contained world of eccentricity, buffoonery and playful desire, which director Jiří Menzel marshals into droll, airy comedy until the forces of history inevitably intrude.

Jiří Menzel’s first solo feature Closely Watched Trains is one of the most famous Czech New Wave films. After the Soviet invasion of Czeschoslovakia in 1968, the communists banned Closely Watched Trains and it wasn’t allowed to be shown for many years. Menzel was not allowed to make a new film for seven years.

Award: “Oscar”, Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, 1967.
Section: Train time

Screenplay: Jiří Menzel, Bohumil Hrabal

Cast: Vaclav Neckar, Jitka Bendova, Vladimir Valenta, Libuse, Havelkova, Josef Somr