Free “Closely Watched Trains” By jiří Menzel Movie Review Sample
Being a bright representative of the Czechoslovak art in general, the film “Closely Watched Trains” by Jiří Menzel particularly holds a special place in the world cinematograph. The story of a young man working at a railway station impressed the audience and got a lot of positive reviews. In spite of the movie’s age, it is still timely and interesting to analyze. Both the storyline and the cinematic devices make the spectator admire and enjoy the film.
The film is based on the novel of the same name by Bohumil Hrabal. Being released in 1966, it is a typical film of the Czechoslovak New Wave. The non-professional actors, long dialogues, black humor and above all, depicting the reckless Czechoslovak youth, – these are the components that made the Czechoslovak films differ from those shot earlier. The film is sodden with the idea of awakening of the Czechs from participation in the process of oppression. Jiří Menzel’s work was duly appreciated and got the Best Foreign Language Oscar in 1968.
The story is told in chronological order – the film starts with the flashbacks describing the main hero’s parentage. The voice-over is supported by a row of photographs so that the audience could vividly imagine his father, grandfather and great grandfather. The character’s voice narrating the action helps the spectator remember a long complicated story in several minutes. The film is black-and-white, as all the films of that era. The dialogues which make the basis of “Closely Watched Trains” are full of verbal irony thus making the film even more precious for the intelligent and experienced audience. The film was shot in Central Bohemia.
Analyzing the scene of Miloš Hrma’s attempt for suicide, it is obvious that the director shoots it with different types of camera: from medium long to show how the hero undresses, to close-ups when depicting his getting ready to slash wrists. As the scene is shot mostly in the white bathroom, the high-key lighting is used here – the very bright light is spread over everything, and the contrast between the lightest and darkest parts of the scene is relatively low. The scene is viewed at eye level which testifies of the low angle of the camera used by the director.
The scene in the bathroom is shot with normal lens – its focal length is standard (50 mm), the depth of field is moderate (the main subject, whether it’s Miloš’s face or the knife, is in sharp focus), and the perspective is normal because things look like they do with a human eye. The scene is shot considering the device of symbols and associations. The chosen place and its look testify of a purity of the motives and best judgment. The slow and coherent action including the full undressing and looking at the mirror, show the naïve nature of a character and his adolescent maximalism. The look on Miloš’s face is nothing but the darkness of despair.
The whole film is watched on the standard screen, that is to say side masking is pulled in for 1.37:1 aspect ratio. Both in the chosen scene and the whole movie in general, the director aims to use the camera primarily as a medium for showing the key elements of the story for the audience to follow. So he obviously uses the objective camera for simply recording the action as it happens with the audience becoming a neutral observer. The era of the film corresponds to the four-track stereophonic sound.
As for the editing, the scene in the bathroom is followed by the fade-in in the end – the type of transition between the past and the future shot when the image slowly fades to black. The characters are three-dimensional and “real”. The fact that the actors were chosen not by the talents but by the prototypes testifies of an authenticity of the simple country characters. Jiri Sust's musical score contributes to the atmosphere of a small town with lovely inhabitants.
The mise-en-scène and cinematography of the film convey the main idea of all the creators of the Czechoslovak New Wave – to destroy the traces of the communist traditions with all their censorship and brutality. Obviously, the sequence depicting Miloš’s suicide stands a little aside from the visual style of the whole film because of the lights and colors applied, to make it serious and tragic. Being referred to both as drama and comedy, the film reflects the country occupied by the Germans and willing to get rid of them. The dramatic elements show the country’s sad state, and humorous utterances reveal how ridiculous the war processes are. The meaning of the whole film is to appeal to the citizen’s common sense, to make the audience acknowledge that no topics should be forbidden to talk about.
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