I Served the King of England

2008

I Served the King of England

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.

79%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 87

81%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,886
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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 awestricken by the fact that anyone, be they rich or poor, would bend to their knees to pick up a coin. With World War II fast approaching and the Germans steadily taking occupation of Czech territory, the opportunistic servant begins his rapid ascent up the hospitality ladder by working for a number of high-profile figures. Though Jan was never a man to settle down with just one woman, his growing attraction to Aryan beauty Liza (Julia Jentsch) soon finds the aspiring hotelier proposing marriage. Of course, a blueblood Teuton like Liza could never wed a man unable to provide proof of his German heritage, but that doesn't stop Jan from doing his best to please her in the bedroom. Later, when Liza is killed retrieving a box of valuable stamps acquired during her stint at the Russian front, Jan uses the valuable collector's items to purchase the very hotel in which he used to work. Unfortunately for Jan, good luck is always followed by bad news, and it's not long before his life's ambition comes crumbling down all around him. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for I Served the King of England

All Critics (87) | Top Critics (36) | Fresh (69) | Rotten (18)

Audience Reviews for I Served the King of England

  • Dec 06, 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.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Jul 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.
    Doctor S Super Reviewer
  • Feb 24, 2010
    Stupendous satire of the bourgeois class with moments of hilarious lunacy and a decent number of sequences of lascivious delicacies. Forty years separate this modern, shining gem from Menzel's masterpiece: the definer of the Czech New Wave. This time, the roots of the modern middle class are explored, wonderfully juxtaposing the visual style of classic cinema that evokes that very characteristic, nostalgic sensation in avid film followers. Sometimes Buñuelesque, sometimes Chaplinesque, the "King of England" is still sitting in his throne, watching all over us while we (conscientiously?) are drowned each time more in banal ambitions, including the "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" concept... 84/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Dec 02, 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.
    Walter M Super Reviewer

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