27 August, 2008
by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
Jiri Menzel, the iconic Czech director, debuted his latest film, I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND, which opened in New York and Los Angeles this week. The film won the FIPRESCI International Federation of Film Critics prize at the Berlin International Film Festival. It also won 3 Czech Lions (the country's Oscar) for Best Film, Best Director and Best Cinematography. Following the openings this weekend, the film will have a national release in the U.S. and Canada.
Menzel came to prominence in 1967 when his debut feature, CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS, won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, instantly becoming one of cinema’s world classics. Along with fellow Czech filmakers Milos Forman and Ivan Passer, Menzel became known as one of the “fathers” of the legendary Czech New Wave, with films known for their unique blend of self-deprecating dark humor and social satire. Menzel’s subsequent body of work includes LARKS ON A STRING (banned in Czechoslovakia in 1969 until 1990, a year after the Velvet Revolution) and Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film MY SWEET LITTLE VILLAGE.
I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND is adapted from a novel by great Czech novelist and social satirist Bohumil Hrabal whose books are the basis for six of Menzel’s films. The film's “hero” is Jan Ditte (Ivan Barnev), an ambitious yet apolitical Everyman whose irresistible charm and overriding desire to make it to the top let him wander unharmed through the political and social upheavals of the turbulent middle decades of the last century, from the 1930s to World War II and 1950s Communism.
The film tells the story, in flashback, of Jan’s burlesque rise and fall, from boy waiter to rich hotelier, beginning in the 1930s in a small town near the Czech-German border where the millionaire wannabe first encounters the pleasures of an affluent lifestyle and his first sexual experiences. I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND stars Ivan Barney and Oldrich Kaiser as Young Ditte and Old Ditte respectively, and German star Julia Jentsch (SOPHIE SCHOLL) as Ditte’s fervent Aryan wife who marries him only after he proves his German background and shifts her husband’s head towards a portrait of Hitler during lovemaking.
Watch the trailer at: http://www.sonyclassics.com/iservedthekingofengland/