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I Served the King of England (2008)

TOMATOMETER

Average Rating: 7.2/10
Reviews Counted: 86
Fresh: 70
Rotten: 16

Critics Consensus: With charm and an eye for life's bittersweet moments, Czech New Wave master Jiri Menzel paints a picaresque story with whimsy and intellect.

Average Rating: 7.3/10
Reviews Counted: 36
Fresh: 32
Rotten: 4

Critics Consensus: With charm and an eye for life's bittersweet moments, Czech New Wave master Jiri Menzel paints a picaresque story with whimsy and intellect.

AUDIENCE SCORE

Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 8,830

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Movie Info

Despite the 1997 death of longtime friend and Closely Watched Trains collaborator Bohumil Hrabal, 1960s-era Czech New Wave filmmaker Jirí Menzel enters into a postmortem collaboration with the famed author in this pitch-black comedy detailing the shrewd rise of an ambitious waiter. All diminutive manservant Jan Dite (Ivan Barnev) ever wanted was to be filthy rich and to preside over his very own hotel. As a young man coming of age in the 1930s, Jan was preoccupied by beautiful women and … More

Rating:
R (for sexual content and nudity)
Genre:
Drama , Romance , Art House & International , Comedy
Directed By:
Written By:
Bohumil Hrabal , Jirí Menzel
In Theaters:
On DVD:
Feb 17, 2009
Box Office:
$0.3M
Runtime:
Sony Pictures Classics - Official Site


Cast


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Critic Reviews for I Served the King of England

All Critics (91) | Top Critics (37) | Fresh (70) | Rotten (16) | DVD (3)

The world it depicts is too dangerous and too lovely to classify.

Full Review… | November 21, 2008
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic

The movie is filled with wonderful moments, set pieces of absurdity, and a richness of humor. But underneath, Menzel and Hraba have a wry and sometimes painful story to tell of the history of their country in the 20th century.

Full Review… | November 10, 2008
Film.com
Top Critic

Tasty enough but inoffensive even when it should offend, provoke, startle.

Full Review… | October 18, 2008
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

Most movies of this kind would lead towards redemption of sorts. Menzel prefers quiet introspection to loud conversion, and that's both a strength and weakness of this movie.

Full Review… | September 19, 2008
Toronto Star
Top Critic

I Served the King of England plays like a combination of Life Is Beautiful and Forrest Gump.

October 24, 2008

The pseudo-sensuality is annoying and the supposed absurdism and satire are flimsy.

Full Review… | October 18, 2008
Guardian

[A] delightful, lighthearted satire, a quirky story of fantasy, wealth and pretty women with exposed nipples.

Full Review… | October 18, 2008
San Diego Metropolitan

This inventive, charming picture-perfect picaresque tale of an ambitious young Czech rascal scrambling in the pre-Nazi and wartime eras marks a welcome and victorious return for Jiri Menzel, whose last major conquest was his 1967 Oscar-winning debut, C

Full Review… | October 13, 2008
Film Journal International

Amelie meets The Pianist in I Served the King of England, one man's surreal journey through 30 years of Czech history.

October 10, 2008
Kansas City Star

In the end, I Served the King of England is doomed to fail by comparison. Ironically, they are comparisons that the film itself keeps making.

Full Review… | October 9, 2008
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

"I Served the King of England" is like an endless feast, featuring one spectacular course after another. Somehow, you never get so full that you want to push yourself away from the table.

Full Review… | October 7, 2008
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

Celebrates the pleasures of life while acknowledging its tragedy and absurdity... Its attitude might be described as good-natured fatalism.

Full Review… | October 6, 2008
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

[It's] surrounded by and infused with the potential for meaning but feels like a lark: a bit of nothing whistling past the graveyard of 20th century European history without a thing to do but indulge itself.

Full Review… | September 26, 2008
Austin Chronicle

Working from a novel and script by Bohumil Hrabal, director Jiri Menzel again achieves a seriocomic triumph, as he did with his Oscar-winning 1966 adaptation of Hrabal's Closely Watched Trains.

Full Review… | September 26, 2008
Baltimore Sun

There's a mystical quality to King of England, a political satire that softens its barbs by locating them in the middle of a fable.

Full Review… | September 19, 2008
St. Paul Pioneer Press

The trouble with I Served the King of England is that it's sometimes bizarre and clever and often visually wonderful, but you never forget that you're watching a movie. And it does go on.

Full Review… | September 19, 2008
Jam! Movies

... full appreciation requires both a grasp of European history and an appreciation for stories which have many layers of meaning.

Full Review… | September 19, 2008
Playback:stl

I Served the King of England might not suit Charlie Chaplin, were he alive today. But Chaplin's visual gusto complements this precisely timed and profoundly reverent ode to silent cinema.

Full Review… | September 18, 2008
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Audience Reviews for I Served the King of England

½

An short old man wryly recalls his days of short wily youth when he dreamed of making the big time come hell or high water, only there was that damn war standing in his way ... World War ll, dammit. Set mainly in Prague, the Paris of Eastern Europe, this comic tale of accidentally acquiring wisdom while actually trying to acquire wealth doesn't take itself too seriously and there's plenty of beauty to while that wisdom acquisition time away. Loved it, but its not for the kiddies though.

More
ApeneckFletcher
Apeneck Fletcher

Super Reviewer

I don't know much about Jiri Menzel, but I know he's a reknown Czech new wave filmmaker (correct me if I'm wrong). Unbiased as I am, here's my review of I Served the King of England...

Okay... what happens here is that a Czech waiter in pre-occupied Prague really, really wants to be a millionaire. And he will go as far as it takes and rise above any and all circumstances in order to get what he wants. He will become a Nazi to marry a cute German teacher, he will silently witness all sorts of twisted human dynamics for a decent tip, he will accept stamps stolen from deported Jews to change them for money... the man is a total innocent, absolutely ignorant of the perversity of his actions or omissions, only chasing after his dream. And he is content even when his beloved fortune is confiscated and he is sent to jail because he will share cells with millionaires. And he always did want to be with millionaires.

The remarkable thing about I Served... is how it creates this rich, sensual Universe in which the main character moves, where he struggles to climb, that he inhabits pleasurably. Naive as he is in the face of reality, he enjoys and contemplates women, food, and money as the most natural things in the world. Therefore, the film is overflowing with vitality and color, textures, suggested tastes and scents. Scenes of banquets and orgies are shown in a matter-of-fact way and accompanied with beautiful music.

Styllistically, the film reminded me of Chaplin and Rene Clair. There's the quick paced piano, the complicated falling and stumbling, the slapstick humor, and the undercurrents of wit and satire.

The performances are very limited since voice-over dominates a great portion of the film, but every actor undoubtedly inhabits their character perfectly. There's hardly a weak performance.

I don't quite know what to make of this movie. It has no big lessons to teach or much to reflect upon except the uselessness of money and the importance of a full life, and even that can go unseen behind all of its visual charm. I Served... is original, cheerful, and provocative. It's knowingly relativist and allegoric. Above all, it's fun, and light-hearted fun with complex backdrops always gets on my good side.

More
ebs90
Elvira B

Super Reviewer

A hilarious story that follows the life of a lucky barman starting in the opulent 20s & 30s with tales of the Czech aristocracy's extravagant life, through to the subsequent German invasion and war, finally ending in the Communist era.

More
RossCollinsUK
Ross Collins

Super Reviewer

"I Served the King of England" starts sometime in the 1960's with Jan Dite(Oldrich Kaiser), "a small man from a small town," getting amnesty from his 15 year jail sentence, after serving 14 years and 9 months. To add to his predicament, he is forced to move to the frontier where he encounters Marcela(Zuzana Fialova) which rekindles memories of himself as a young man(Ivan Barnev) who began his career in food service as a hot dog vendor at the train station in Prague before moving on to become a waiter at a bar. It is there that Jaruska(Petra Hrebickova), the new woman at the local bordello, walks in soaking wet one day.

"I Served the King of England" is a darkly comic, gorgeously rendered, and sensual movie that starts Jan's story innocently enough with a silent movie homage. In fact, he does remind me of a Chaplinesque hero who suffers under the weight of the world while trying to make it a better place through a smile. However, Jan has more important things on his mind than just service, dreaming of becoming a millionaire and opening his own elite hotel. That along with his love of women(I had not noticed they are all taller than him until it is pointed out) drives him in his life, as he also has a naughty habit of dropping coins to tempt the rich.(This reminds me of Abbie Hoffman and Co. dropping money at the New York Stock Exchange. This event says everything you need to know about capitalism.) At the same time, Jan loses track of important events happening around him which leads to both his physical and moral downfall.

More
Harlequin68
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

I Served the King of England Quotes


Jan DĂ­te Old:
A person becomes most human, ften against his own will.. when he begins to founder, when he is derailed or deprived of order.
– Submitted by Frances H (21 months ago)
Jan DĂ­te Old:
I look at myself and am sickened by what I see.
– Submitted by Frances H (21 months ago)
Marcela:
We're here to find trees with melodies in them. Music.
– Submitted by Frances H (21 months ago)
Walden:
You have to know how to throw away your change so that it comes back to you as banknotes.
– Submitted by Frances H (21 months ago)
Jan DĂ­te Old:
My whole life I aspired solely to become a millionaire. But before that it wanted nothing more than to peddle frankfurters at the train stain.
– Submitted by Frances H (21 months ago)
Jan DĂ­te Old:
It was always my luck to run into bad luck.
– Submitted by Frances H (21 months ago)

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