Jiri Menzel (Closely Watched Trains, 1966) revisits a recurring theme with this latest work of a long career. I say this, assuming this is the case. I know it is a theme that draws many East European Directors. And as I look at Menzel’s body of work, I believe this is only the second of his films I’ve seen. The other being the aforementioned Academy Award winner.
This is one of those films that play as a sweet fable, full of sun-splashed light – airy, even. But underneath, the story reveals the entire history of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic, from before the capitulation to Hitler, through the war years and on through the Workers Revolution. The serious subject matter told in this way is of course, its genius. Menzel tells a very broad political and historical tale, through the very small and focused prism of Jan Dite.
Jan’s vision is to become a millionaire and own his own hotel. The story is told in flashback and begins as the older Dite is released from a 15-year prison sentence. Dite means child in Czech, and Jan Dite is a true innocent – but with an agenda. Not a compete naif. The story is told with a particularly European view of life. And it has a Charlie Chaplin The Great Dictator feel about it.
This is such an accomplished film in almost every respect. It’s visually appealing, and edited to perfection. Highly recommended.