For a film about the goings-on at a small Czechoslovak railway station during World War 2 there are surprisingly few trains to be seen in Closely Watched Trains (Jirí Menzel, 1966). The same can't be said of raging hormones and their effects. Everyone seems hell-bent on getting laid. I guess even a war seems far away when you're sitting next to a cute colleague! But young train dispatcher Milos learns that desire can involve a wagon load of frustration and self-doubt.
Closely Watched Trains is sexy in a boorish but endearing kind of way. A funny subplot about the sabotage of a German train results in a climactic explosion (heh) but still feels like an afterthought, adding to the light, irreverent tone. With its spicy theme and satirical comments on the futile quest for order and control the film earned its place in the Czechoslovak New Wave of the 1960s. It must've been a hoot to watch for younger cinema-goers back then!
A Polish friend I watched it with spent the first half hour chuckling at the dialogue. According to him, Czech sounds like a comical version of Polish. For instance, the film title translates into something like 'Sharply Followed Intestines'. Later he disclosed that traditionally, Poles are a bit jealous of the carefree disposition of their southern neighbors. Czechs prefer not to concern themselves with silly Big Ideas such as religion. Instead they focus on beer brewing, drinking (at which they're world champions) and other pleasures of the flesh. This film sure seems proof of that.
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