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Dark Blue World (2001)

Lt. Franta Slama is a top pilot in the Czech Air Force who is assigned to train a promising young flier, Karel Vojtisek, and they soon become friends. When Nazi Germany invades Czechoslovakia in 1939, they both reject the authority of their new leaders and escape to England where they join other Czech exiles in the RAF. While flying a mission over England, Karel crash lands and happens upon the farmhouse of Susan, a young woman whose husband is in the Navy. Karel soon falls head over heels for Susan but, while they enjoy a brief fling, in time Susan decides she prefers the company of the older and more worldly Franta. As Franta and Karel struggle to maintain their friendship despite their romantic rivalry.

Dark Blue World (2001)

Not Czech

A nation cannot be a nation unless it has an identity. These days that identity is at least found in and often generated by movies, especially war movies.

Also, if a nation has a mature identity, you will see it in the nature of the movie: how it is constructed, what makes it unique to that land.

That said, this is a huge disappointment. It is, in effect a British film from start to finish in its cinematic values, in its notion of the world, even the bag of cliches it draws from. Except it is partially set in the Czech Republic and features a few men from that land.

If you go to Poland, you will see films that are uniquely Polish. The noir is closer to the human than anywhere else and the notion of intrinsic beauty is more pure.

If you go to Scandinavia, Spain, France, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan you can see unique values in their native films even when they try to emulate each other. Even when — especially when — they are bad or hackneyed or distinctly genre films.

Why not the Czech Republic? They have a heavy defeatism, a sort of fatal inferiority complex that has charm, sort of what Northern European Jews had before the war. Svankmeijer captures this. This movie does insofar as the story. But stories don’t matter. The tone of the thing is chipper British buddy movie.

Much has been made about the authenticity of the aerial sequences. I guess they are accurate. But they don’t thrill a bit, even when participating in a crash. Now here was a great opportunity for a unique vision, a way of shaping fate in three-D space to conform to Prague Gloom.

But no. Cinema seems to have passed through Prague on its way elsewhere without stopping.

Posted in 2005

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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