Closely Watched Trains adapted and directed by Jiri Menzel
A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:
- https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEVa4_CsRStSBBDo4uJWT8BSWtTTn0N1E and http://realini.blogspot.ro/
This is one of the best films, included on the TIME list that you can find here:
It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Picture and it is a compelling tragicomedy about a young man, Milos Hrma.
He is both naïve and heroic, somewhat slow and brave, if not all at the same time, at least at different stages of development.
Milos is a virgin.
When he tries to have sex, he is unable to perform and a doctor tells him about premature ejaculation.
It is normal, he is told and the advice is to get an older woman to help him…and an extreme is reached when he tries to convince a woman who might be seventy years old and does that while she is force feeding a goose…
The boy descends from a family with an outré passé.
One ancestor got stoned on a bridge in Prague, later argued with some miners who had lost their jobs and got killed.
His grandfather was a hypnotizer who came out as the only one trying to stop the Nazis from occupying his country.
The man stopped in front of the tanks, perhaps like the famous Chinese who stood in front of a column in Tianmen Square during the students’ protests, and tried to hypnotize the troops, only to be crushed by a tank.
Milos is taken with Masa and there is an early memorable scene wherein he tries to kiss her and the train departs.
World War II takes place in the background, as Milos and his colleagues work at a railway station and remind one of Chekhov
- Unfinished Piece for Mechanical Piano -for instance…
The behavior of Milos Hrma recalls another character, that of Forrest Gump, with its tendency to say and do wrong things.
The jokes are sometimes simple and at others they are mixed with a dramatic sense and it is difficult to know…is this a crying or a laughing moment?
An inspector keeps coming to the station and he is grotesque and perhaps funny when he keeps claiming that the glorious troupes are in a splendid position:
- They are retreating…
- Why? Keeps asking Milos Gump
- It is a strategic retreat
- Well, it is a trap and they will surround and defeat the enemy…
Another time they joke about the man stealing sausages and then cutting one in the tram and saying he has another three…with one version suggesting he has cut his own thing by mistake.
And speaking of cutting, Milos himself thinks he can’t take it anymore, for life is too difficult and needs to end it.
Fortunately he fails and moves on, trying like a character from Monty Python to find a woman to teach him about intimacy, about which he talks to a priest that has another great and truthful line about the church;
- The church has been doing psychoanalysis for 600 years
And he is right, for the confession is not much different from the act of the patient who talks about his repressed desires to the analyst.
Sex is very present in this film, albeit there is no nudity except for the buttocks of the girl that works in the telegraph office of the railway station, who gets to play an undressing game and gets stamps all over her body.
It is the only instance that I know of wherein a public official’s stamp is used for erotic purposes that become very funny as well.
Another case of humor and official stamping was the hilarious comedy Top Secret, wherein the authorities in communist East Germany made it easier to deal with the many executions that were necessary and had a stamp:
- Find him and kill him!