Closely Watched Trains
|Closely Watched Trains|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jiří Menzel|
|Produced by||Zdeněk Oves|
|Screenplay by||Jiří Menzel|
|Based on||Closely Watched Trains
by Bohumil Hrabal
|Music by||Jiří Šust|
|Editing by||Jiřina Lukešová|
|Distributed by||Ústřední půjčovna filmů|
|Running time||92 minutes|
|Box office||$1,500,000 (US/ Canada)|
Closely Watched Trains (Czech: Ostře sledované vlaky) is a 1966 Czechoslovak film directed by Jiří Menzel. It was released in the United Kingdom as Closely Observed Trains. It is a coming-of-age story about a boy working at a train station in German-occupied Czechoslovakia during World War II. The film is based on a story by Bohumil Hrabal. It was produced by Barrandov Studios and filmed on location in Central Bohemia. It won the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 40th Academy Awards in 1968.
Germany is losing at all her fronts at the end of the Second World War. Young Miloš Hrma is engaged as an unpaid employee in a small railway station. The stationmaster, an enthusiastic pigeon-breeder, has a kind wife, but is envious of the train dispatcher Hubička's success with women. Miloš holds a platonic love for young conductor Máša. The experienced Hubička tries to explain to him the "matters of love" and discovers that Miloš is a virgin.
The idyll of the railway station is disturbed by the arrival of the councillor, Zednicek, a Nazi supporter. Máša spends the night with Miloš, but he finds no success and, the next day, he attempts suicide. He is saved, and the doctor explains to him that ejaculatio praecox is normal at Miloš's age. The doctor recommends that Miloš seek the assistance of an experienced woman. During the nightshift, Hubička flirts with the telegraphist, Zdenička, and imprints her buttocks with the office's rubber stamps. Her mother complains to Hubička's superiors.
The scandal prevents the stationmaster from becoming inspector. The Germans are nervous, since their trains are attacked and blown up by the partisans. An attack is also planned for this station. Young artiste Viktoria Freie delivers a bomb to the station. At Hubička's request, Viktoria also helps Miloš to "resolve" his problem with virginity. The encouraged Miloš sets up the booby-trap himself. The endeavor is successful, but the young man also dies during the course of events.
Based on Bohumil Hrabal's 1965 novel Closely Watched Trains, Barrandov Studios first offered the film project to three of its experienced directors, who all declined, before offering it to Jiří Menzel as his feature-film debut. Menzel's first choice for the main role, Miloš, was Vladimír Pucholt, who however was occupied filming Jiří Krejčík's Svatba jako řemen. At one point Menzel considered playing the role himself, but concluded he was too old. Eventually Menzel's wife discovered Václav Neckář who was cast. Menzel did also cast himself in the film, in the role of the doctor. Filming began in late February and lasted until the end of April 1966. Locations were used in and around the station building in Loděnice.
The film premiered in Czechoslovakia on 18 November 1966.
Bosley Crowther of The New York Times called Closely Watched Trains "as expert and moving in its way as was Jan Kadar's and Elmar Klos's The Shop on Main Street or Milos Forman's Loves of a Blonde", two other recent films from Czechoslovakia. Crowther wrote: "What it appears Mr. Menzel is aiming at all through his film is just a wonderfully sly, sardonic picture of the embarrassments of a youth coming of age in a peculiarly innocent yet worldly provincial environment. ... The charm of his film is in the quietness and slyness of his earthy comedy, the wonderful finesse of understatements, the wise and humorous understanding of primal sex. And it is in the brilliance with which he counterpoints the casual affairs of his country characters with the realness, the urgency and significance of those passing trains."Variety's reviewer wrote: "The 28-year-old Jiri Menzel registers a remarkable directorial debut. His sense for witty situations is as impressive as his adroit handling of the players. A special word of praise must go to Bohumil Hrabal, the creator of the literary original; the many amusing gags and imaginative situations are primarily his. The cast is composed of wonderful types down the line."
Awards and honors
The film won several international awards:
- The 1967 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
- The Grand Prize at the 1966 Mannheim-Heidelberg International Filmfestival
- A nomination for the 1968 BAFTA Awards for Best Film and Best Soundtrack
- A nomination for the 1968 DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures
- A nomination for the 1967 Golden Globe for Best Foreign-Language Foreign Film
- "Big Rental Films of 1968", Variety, 8 January 1969 p 15. Please note this figure is a rental accruing to distributors.
- "The 40th Academy Awards (1968) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- Collective of editors (2004). Český hraný film IV./Czech Feature Film IV. (1961-1970). Prague: Národní filmový archiv. pp. 339–344. ISBN 80-7004-115-3.
- Taussig, Pavel. "Ostře sledované vlaky". instinkt.tyden.cz (in Czech). Empresa Media. Retrieved 2011-07-08. Text "2010-05-07" ignored (help)
- "Ostře sledované vlaky". Česko-Slovenská filmová databáze (in Czech). POMO Media Group. Retrieved 2011-10-07.
- Crowther, Bosley (1967-10-16). "Closely Watched Trains (1966)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-07.
- Staff writer (1966). "Ostre Sledovane Vlaky". Variety. Retrieved 2011-10-07.
- Škvorecký J. Jiří Menzel and the history of the «Closely watched trains». Boulder: East European Monographs, 1982
- Closely Watched Trains at the Internet Movie Database
- Closely Watched Trains at AllRovi
- Criterion Collection essay by Richard Schickel