World War II Marathon: Ostre Sledované Vlaky (Closely Watched Trains, 1966)


Film #20 in the World War II Marathon, and man, that Masa is one hot tamale!

Screenplay By: Bohumil Hrabal & Jirí Menzel
Directed By: Jirí Menzel

I’m not a huge fan of Wes Anderson, but I happen to like most of his movies and enjoy his style of film making. Ostre Sledované Vlaky feels like a Wes Anderson film in a lot of ways, mainly in its dead pan quirkiness and use of the greater world as a mere backdrop to the lives of its characters. However, the similarities don’t run too deep, as Jirí Menzel has crafted a film that is off beat and quirky, but more grounded in reality and in the end brings its real world backdrop to the forefront to have an impact on the characters. It is only with the sudden import of the war at the end of Ostre Sledované Vlaky that the film transcends above just quirky and into great movie territory.

The characters in Ostre Sledované Vlaky are flighty, they are self absorbed, but these are character traits that make sense when viewed against the backdrop of their time. It shouldn’t surprise the viewer that people in the background of World War II would take a rather off hands approach to the war. The death and destruction of the war doesn’t touch them directly, at least not in their eyes, and their actions reflect this in their lark like quality. Ostre Sledované Vlaky isn’t a movie about malice, or even about the war or its breadth, it’s a quirky comedy, almost dark even, about a boy coming of age in an odd setting surrounded by a group of odd individuals.

To go back to the ending, it is what ties the movie together. Ostre Sledované Vlaky doesn’t shy away from WWII, but it does treat it with a telescope like quality, it’s out there but it’s pretty darn far away. The end changes that, and in the moment that Milos falls off the tower reality comes crashing back in. The characters appear to be in their own little world still, but as Masa tentatively walks towards the exploded train it’s as if the winds of change are blowing in their direction. Thanks to the actions of Milos the war is now right in front of them, a telescope is no longer needed and the quirky nature has been shed in favor of one of repercussions. It’s fitting that the end happens before we see any repercussions, because those are for another movie, not this one.

There is more to Ostre Sledované Vlaky than what I have written, but those are the points I most wished to touch upon. It is a well crafted film, with technical and writing prowess clearly on display. The cast fall into their roles, not only acting them out well but looking the parts as well. Ostre Sledované Vlaky is funny and yet poignant at the same time. It’s also a vastly overlooked film, so if you haven’t already done so, make the time for Ostre Sledované Vlaky, you’ll thank me later.





4 responses to “World War II Marathon: Ostre Sledované Vlaky (Closely Watched Trains, 1966)

  1. had never heard of this Bill, youre always a good man for educating me in the ways of movies.
    i love the snow too! we might put ours up next week. its like Christmas decorations isnt it – when is too early to put your snow on? hehe

  2. I’m a big fan of the snow, I was a little upset when it disappeared last year, it looks so cool.

  3. I’ve never seen this film. BORING!

    I was attracted by the little snow flakes however. It makes the review very pleasant and serene. It reminds of that special time of year when we offer wonderful gifts to our loved ones. I feel warm and fuzzy now and I usual don’t.

    Let’s go a shopping!

  4. Mission accomplished, I am after all nothing more than a tool for the international corporations to sell more product!

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