I Served the King of England - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

I Served the King of England Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ December 6, 2012
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.
Super Reviewer
March 30, 2009
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.
Super Reviewer
August 18, 2007
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.
Super Reviewer
December 2, 2009
"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.
Super Reviewer
April 21, 2009
Quirky tale about a simple man, Jan Ditie (Ivan Barney and Oldrich Kaiser) with a simple plan: watch and learn how millionaires live so that when he becomes rich and famous, he will know how to behave. And fortuitously he does become rich, only to see it taken away. Along the way he catches the eye of some spectacularly beautiful women who then allow him to sample their charms. Lots of skin, a few chuckles, and a soft satire of materialism, make this an entertaining film. Food, music, opulent colors, delights of the flesh are all here in abundance. Subtitles, and lots of them, as it is very talkative, so be ready to speed-read. But, only the Czech is translated. The German is left unsubtitled, probably because Jan does not speak or understand German, even though he winds up marrying a good German girl. Quite enjoyable.
Super Reviewer
September 21, 2008
Wonderfully quirky and wonderfully witty. Grab it if your video store has a copy or two.
Super Reviewer
½ July 9, 2009
Really dug this movie. It's funny, playful, and it surprises you about halfway through with a more serious turn. Hurray for short guys!
Super Reviewer
½ October 26, 2008
First half's whimsy somewhat backfires when less whimsical events come to pass (ex: the Holocaust).
Super Reviewer
½ July 25, 2010
Starts off as an amusingly low-key comedy which surprisingly turns into a history lesson about the German annexation of Czechoslovakia and the effect on its citizens during WW II. Some fine acting and injected with period flavor, the film follows the life of a poor waiter who dreams of owning his own hotel. In the opening shot, we see him in his 60's and getting released from prison after serving 14 years and 7 months of a 15 year sentence (getting out early for good behavior, ha) and find out how he got there. Interesting and with a share of charming & poignant moments sprinkled with substantial and unexpected nudity, all photographed with an artistic lens. This film won't amaze you but ought to hold your interest to the duration.
September 25, 2011
in this chech movie a man is released from prison and recalls his life through flashbacks and in turn history of that area pre WWII to the present. the man who plays the older version of the main character has amazing steel blue eyes that make me think of armin mueller-stahl.
½ May 4, 2008
A busboy/waiter whose stature rises from every circumstance imaginable. The higher in rank his customers are, the farther up the ladder he goes: Better leftovers, better tips, better clothes....and with the better cash flow he can afford better women! This flick is full of balletic grace, charm, poignancy and non-stop humor. The dvd will be released here in the States on 2/17/09
January 5, 2013
Enchanting beautifully filmed movie that seems lighthearted in tone, but really carries a very profound message about life. The acting by Ivan Barnev is superb and the Busby Burkely meal serving scene blew my mind. I loved it!
½ May 7, 2012
A delightfully absurd movie, really enjoyable.
½ January 19, 2012
A gem! If you liked Darjeeling Limited or O' Brother Where Art Thou you will probably like this one. Better than Closely Watched Trains.
November 7, 2011
Divertida, pícara y muy humana. Un pedazo de la historia checa desde los ojos de un personaje que mantiene intacta su esperanza.
October 28, 2011
Nazi Europe Provides the Background for this Hilarious Story of a Man surviving by his Wits as a Servant to the Upper Classes during WWII. Trying to become a man of Affluence himself, his plan Backfires when the Soviets Invade & Imprison Him. A Sweet, Charming, Amusing tale, of a man whose only crime in the world was trying to be rich, even if it means working at a Nazi Breeding Center! A Film that ONLY A European Filmmaker has the Heart, Wit, and Intelligence to make, This is European Cinema In all its Shining Eccentric Talent !
March 1, 2011
watched it before and still the best classic art movie with lots of wonderful moments. It's liike a combination of Life Is Beautiful and Forrest Gump.
January 27, 2011
by Leon Conrad for remotegoat on 06/05/08

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.
½ July 5, 2010
Monday July 10, 2010

(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
April 14, 2010
(***): Thumbs Up

Quite funny.
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