Czech New Wave: Closely Watched Trains*

              Closely Watched Trains (1966), directed by Jirí Menzel,portrayed the story of a boy who tried to hide from mainstream society in 1940s Czechoslovakia but still got caught up in the emotions. After seeing some family members work in other fields, Milos (Vaclav Neckar) decided he would like an easier and lower profile job. He found that as a train dispatcher in a Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia. After being influenced by his boss in the area of females he tries to do the same with young conductor Masa (Jitka Bendova). When Milos fails to perform on a weekend getaway he emotionally breaks down and tries to commit suicide but fails.

              Closely Watched Trains would fall under the Czechoslovakia New Wave, which was seen as a darker style of film with dry humor. Other characteristics may include long unscripted dialogues, inexperienced actors and like many of the Czech films, Closely Watched Trains was taken from a novel. Although this wave did not last long, it made its presence known in political implications before censorship laws strengthened.

             The imagery of the film is blunt in order to clarify the troubles young Milos is having. First, he sees his boss Hubicka (Josef Somr), make love to a women at work, then Milos catches a glimpse of a train car full of young nurses that even catches the eyes of the soldiers passing by. After Milos finds out from the Doctor what the diagnosis is, he makes sure to mention, “I am a man” before explaining his situation. The social problems Milos overcame throughout the time of the film were short lived. After planting a bomb on a Nazi ammunition train he falls under enemy fire and dies. This comes only to deny his girlfriend yet again, who was waiting for him back at the station.

             The dark nature of the film was portrayed best through the slow progression of the film and the depression of young Milos. Closely Watched Trains is a film that is not to be over analyzed but taken for what it is worth. Globally, with this film, people were able to get an idea of the Czech New Wave.

Greg Humkey

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