Closely Watched Trains  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Ostře sledované vlaky is a 1966 Czechoslovakian film directed by Jiří Menzel. It is released as Closely Watched Trains in North America and Closely Observed Trains in the UK. It was filmed in Barrandov Studios, Prague.

The film is based on a story by Bohumil Hrabal. It is a coming-of-age story about a boy working at a train station in German-occupied Czechoslovakia during World War II.

It is also one of several films based on writings of the novelist and short story writer Bohumil Hrabal (1914-1997), and also with his close collaboration. Menzel and Hrabal are a rare example of how congenial artists of the same sensibility achieve the same effects in different genres.

As the blurb of the Criterion Collection DVD writes, the hero of the novel, a young railway station apprentice, "Oblivious to the war and the resistance that surrounds him ... embarks on a journey of sexual awakening and self-discovery, encountering a universe of frustation, eroticism, and adventure within his sleepy backwater depot."

The film is a black comedy, now tender, now savage, a masterpiece of irony and observation. But as such it also explores the strategies of survival for the everyday person during the Nazi occupation of WW II, in time of a violent and repressive dictatorship. This message was brought home so obviously for the Communists that Closely Watched Trains was not allowed to be shown in Czechoslovakia for many years after the Soviet invasion of 1968, and Menzel was not allowed to make a new film for seven years.


The film won several international awards:

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Closely Watched Trains" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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