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I Served the King of England

~ Audience Award ~ European Film Awards

Directed by Jirí Menzel and adapted from the acclaimed novel by Bohumil Hrabal, I Served The King Of England stars Oldrich Kaiser as Jan Díte, who gets out of jail after serving 14 years and 9 months of his 15 year sentence and reflects on the events that led to his imprisonment. We then see flashbacks with Jan (now played by Ivan Barnev) working as a waiter in various hotels as he works towards his dream of becoming a millionaire. However, Jan's life takes an unexpected turn when he falls in love with a Nazi (Julia Jentsch), causing him to turn a blind eye to the fate of his fellow Czechs. There are echoes here of films such as Life Is Beautiful (clownish physical comedy, the Holocaust, the Nazi occupation) and Black Book (picaresque wartime adventures, frequent nudity, more Nazis) but the film has a certain Czech charm all its own. The segments with Jan as an older man are less successful, but the flashback scenes are wonderful and Barnev is a delightful physical comedian (there’s a hint of Chaplin in the restaurant scenes). It's also very funny and surprisingly erotic in places (in a tasteful way, not a Paul Verhoeven-type way), thanks to Jan's frequently indulged habit of adorning beautiful naked ladies with whatever comes to hand (flowers, fruit, money, etc.). I Served The King Of England is the fourth of acclaimed Czech director Jirí Menzel's films to be drawn from the works of Bohumil Hrabal (the most famous of which is the Oscar-winning Closely Watched Trains) and his direction is assured throughout, orchestrating some terrifically memorable sequences and drawing superb performances from his cast. In short, I Served The King Of England is an impressively directed, brilliantly written and superbly acted wartime romp that is both emotionally engaging and laugh-out-loud funny. Recommended.

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Directed by: 
Jirí Menzel
Running Time: 
Czech Republic
Czech, German
Ivan Barnev, Oldrich Kaiser, Julia Jentsch, Martin Huba
Screenplay by: 
Jirí Menzel, based on the novel by Bohumil Hrabal

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