I Served the King of England

3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars
Thirty years after first collaborating with pre-eminent Czech author Bohumil Hrabal on his breakthrough ‘new wave’ comedy ‘Closely Observed Trains’, Jiri Menzel adapts Hrabal’s 1990 satirical novel to gently diverting effect. Oldrich Kaiser plays the rueful older, and Ivan Barney the ingenuous younger, Dite, a diminutive waiter with dreams of riches.

He looks back from the ’60s over a five-decade Schweik-ian career surviving the vissitudes of Czech history, from the 1920s, through wartime occupation, to his 15-year jail stint under communism. Menzel adds a little slapstick to Hrabal’s fond fantasia, giving free rein to Dite’s sexual nostalgia – showing, in echoes of ‘American Beauty’, Dite artfully decorating a succession of seemingly happy prostitutes in flowers and fruit.

This voyeurism can make it seem too much of an old man’s film – which it is. But its serene, humourous and distinctly Czech take on the ironies and predations of capitalism, socialism, invasion and social prostitution is finally surprisingly moving.

By: Wally Hammond



Release details

Release date:
Friday May 9 2008
120 mins

Cast and crew

Jirí Menzel
Jirí Menzel
Ivan Barnev
Oldrich Kaiser
Julia Jentsch
Martin Huba
Marián Labuda
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