I Served the King of England Reviews
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.
"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.
Jan Díte is a man who's set apart from others. What sets him apart is his height - he's short. He's also ambitious. Jan Díte wants to become rich. He starts out selling food to passengers at train stations. While honing his skill as a con artist, he becomes fascinated by observing people's attitudes to money. He cultivates a collector's mentality aligned with a talent for sniffing out opportunities. He works in a pub, then as a hotel waiter, acquiring bank notes, knowledge and experience by dint of his carefully honed voyeuristic talent along the way. Against the background of the German occupation of Prague, he falls in love with Liza, a Sudeten German. After a stint at the front, Liza returns with a valuable collection of stamps left behind as a result of the holocaust. After her accidental death, Jan sells the collection and invests in his own hotel. He ends up being sentenced to 15 years in jail, one for each of the millions he amassed. Everything he's built up is sequestrated by the Communist regime. He serves out most of his sentence in the company of fellow millionaires, a fellowship from which he is ultimately excluded. A few months short of his official release date, Jan is freed as a result of an amnesty, and sent to live in a deserted ghost town near the German border. He restores an old pub, during the process of which he collects mirrors and memories, out of which Jiří Menzel's 2006 film adaptation of Bohumil Hrabal's tale "I Served The King of England" unfolds as a series of flashbacks and stories which he tells to a couple who become his neighbours for a while they are on a mission to source timber from the forest near the town.
Hrabal wrote the story in 1975. It took eight years for it to be published. When it eventually came out, it appeared as an exclusive publication for members of the Jazz Section of the Czech Musicians' Union, to whom Hrabal dedicated it. In the heavily-censored Soviet-occupied period of Czech history, Hrabal's style of writing and his endorsement of the playfulness of the jazz musician's approach was seen by the authorities as the last straw. It took four years, but the Section's leaders ended up being tried and incarcerated. It was only after the so-called Velvet Revolution, the literary-led movement which overthrew the communist regime, of which the playwright and writer Vaclav Havel was a leading figure, that they were eventually released.
The juxtaposition of the effects of ideological oppression and a sense of playfulness and play - of the Marxist Homo Faber as a counterpoise to Huizinga's Homo Ludens - spans and dominates the book, but is brought to life, and given a different dimension in Menzel's film. Although gambling doesn't feature, the play of beer in a glass, the roles people play, the playfulness of people at different periods in a hotel swimming pool, musicians playing, and playing with money all do. Play and playing are major themes in this film, which charts a trajectory of playfulness across a particularly intense period in Czech history, which spans Nazi occupation and communist rule.
Across this time period, people play out their lives. People move differently, depending on the period in which they live. Over time, posture changes; as do gait and voice use. It is rare to find a period film which portrays these differences accurately. It is a tribute to Menzel's flawless direction of his perfectly-cast actors that these differences are brought out with such exquisite effortlessness.
In this film, almost any theme becomes a segment in a DNA-like strand which connects to others. That connection branches out via wider references both within the film and beyond it. Light, glass, liquidity, solidity and absolute vs relative values are just five such themes. I could list others, but that would take away part of the fun for the viewer. It is this attention to detail and depth of metaphorical approach which provide much of the justification for the undeniable claim this film has to classic status. Whether you just watch it for the fun of watching it, or whether you watch it with an eye for detail; whether you watch it once or whether you watch it more than once; whether you have money in your pocket or whether you've spent your last coins to see it ... watch it. This film will creep inside your mind and play with you. Watch it.
(2008) I Served The King of England
(In Czech Republic with English subtitles)
This film is more like the adventures of Jan Dite played by Ivan Barney than what the title of this film insinuates. Anybody familar with films such as Barry Lyndon or Benjamin Button should enjoy this film as well where the narrator realvaluates his adventures while living on Prag and so forth.... This film is never boring for his retelling of his life was somewhat a fascinating retale of one`s life!
3 out of 4