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Three Czech films at the Copenhagen International Filmfestival

Copenhagen International Film Festival 2007 presented three Czech films: "I Served the King of England" (dir. Jiri Menzel), "Empties" (dir. Jan Sverak) and "Marta" (dir. Marta Novakova).

I Served the King of England
Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále

Obsluhoval jsem anglickeho krale

This is the fifth time that Jiří Menzel has adapted a novel by his soul-mate and fellow Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal. Among the earlier works are winners of both an Oscar and a Golden Bear, and this film was awarded the FIPRESCI critics' award at this year's Berlin film festival. I Served the King of England is a subtle satire, which is both erotic and at times surreal, and which can be seen as a sophisticated cousin to Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful and Kurt Vonnegut ( Slaughterhouse Five). The film follows the incredible life story of Dite, a short Chaplinesque character, as he transforms from being a porter to becoming a hotel millionaire during the most turbulent period of Europe's recent history. He is possibly the biggest opportunist ever seen on film, but it is difficult not to sympathise with him, even if he associates with no matter who is in power - Nazis or communists. Money and sex are the focal points of Dite's world, and the film depicts both his life and his dreams with exquisitely beautiful images. This is a brilliant comeback by Menzel.

Jiří Menzel
Born 1938 in what was then Czechoslovakia. He trained at FAMU film school in Prague and was part of the Czech new wave with Milos Forman in the 1960s. He won an Oscar for his feature debut Closely Observed Trains (1966), the first of many adaptations of works by Bohumil Hrabal. His magnum opus Larks on a String (1969) was banned because of its communist satire and was only released in 1990, when it won the Golden Bear in Berlin. My Sweet Little Village (1985) was also an international hit.

Website: www.anglickykral.cz
Director: Jiří Menzel
Screenplay: Jiří Menzel
Cinematography: Jaromír Šofr
Cast: Ivan Barnev, Oldřich Kaiser, Julia Jentsch, Marián Labuda, Milan Lasica
Production: AQS
Distributor: Scanbox
Country: Czech Republic/Slovakia
Language: Czech/German
Subtitles: English
Year: 2006
Duration: 118 min
Section: Masters


Vratné lahve

Vratne lahve

The Oscar-winning father-son team behind the Czech film Kolya is back with another heart-warming and intelligent comedy. Jan Svěrák has directed the film, while his father Zdeněk Svěrák, the Czech Republic's answer to Sean Connery, has written the screenplay and plays Tkaloun, a man on the verge of retirement. He stubbornly refuses to leave the labour market, however, even though he can no longer keep his job as a teacher. He first tries his luck as a bicycle courier but ends up sorting empty bottles in a shop, where he can fantasise about all the beautiful women walking in and out. Meanwhile, his much tried wife Eliska resignedly watches him throw himself into one project after another, in order to prove that he is still in good form. Only at the 11th hour does Tkaloun realise that everything he has always taken for granted is beginning to slip away from him. The film has been a huge success in the Czech Republic.

Website: www.vratnelahve.cz
Director: Jan Svěrák
Screenplay: Zdeněk Svěrák
Cinematography: Vladimír Smutný
Cast: Zdeněk Svěrák, Daniela Kolářová, Tatiana Vilhelmová, Robin Soudek, Jiří Macháček
Production: Portobello Pictures, Biograf Jan Svěrák
Worldsales: Fandango Portobello Sales
Country: Czech Republic/England/Denmark
Language: Czech
Subtitles: English
Year: 2007
Duration: 103 min
Section: National Favourites




Marta Nováková's feature debut is a great example of how it is possible to tell a lot with limited means, as long as the narrative is tight, the acting intense and the style consistent. Marta is a psychological drama about a father and a son, who live in a hut in the forest, in the middle of nowhere. A war is raging, and one day a wounded female soldier turns up at their place. This sets off a power struggle between father and son, who are not used to having a woman in the house especially not a woman soldier. Marta is Nováková's graduation film from the Czech film school FAMU, and the film was nominated for the Ingmar Bergman Debut Award, which is presented to films that deal with existential questions using a dynamic or experimental means of cinematic expression. And one can easily see something Bergmanesque in the intense chamber play, where a random event tests three individuals and their moral ideals to the limit.

Website: www.martafilm.cz
Director: Marta Nováková
Screenplay: Jan Coufal, Marta Nováková
Cinematography: Matěj Cibulka
Cast: Petra Špalková, Jan Novotný, Vojtěch Štěpánek, Tomáš Pavelka, Viktor Fatka
Production: Fresh Films
Worldsales: FAMU
Country: Czech Republict
Language: Czech
Subtitles: English
Year: 2006
Duration: 77 min
Section: New Perspectives