I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND (Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)
January 25, 2009 by Dennis Amith
A well-told humorous and erotic and enjoyable film. ‘I Served the King of England’ is satire at its best.
Images courtesy of © Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND (Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále)
YEAR OF FILM RELEASE: 2006
DURATION: 119 minutes
DVD INFORMATION: Color, Anamorphic Widescreen (1:85:1). Czech 5.1 (Dolby Digital), Subtitles: English and French
RATED: R (for Sexual Content and Nudity
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: February 17, 2009
Directed by Jiri Menzel
Writers: Bohumil Hrabal and Jeri Menzel
Director of Photography: Jaromir Sofr
Production Designer: Milan Bycek
Sound by: Radim Hladik Jr.
Music by Ales Brezina
Script Editor: Kristian Suda
Costume Designer: Milana Corba
Makeup Artists: Jirina Pahlerova
Production Supervisor: Jan Balzer
Production Manager: Pavel Cechak
First Assistant Director: Jiri Kacirek ML.
Ivan Barnev as Jan Dite (Younger)
Oldrich Kaiser as Jan Dite (Older)
Julia Jentsch as Liza
Martin Huba as Skrivanek
Marian Labuda as Walden
Milan Lasica as Professor
Josef Abrham as Hotelier Brandejs
‘I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND’ is a humorous and erotic film, satire at its best.
The multi-award winning film from director Jiri Menzel (Academy Award Winner in 1968 for Best Foreign Language Film “Closely Watched Trains”) had captivated audiences in America with his film over 40-years ago.
“Closely Watched Trains” was tragicomedy about an apprentice train dispatchers attempt at sexual initiation during the German occupation. This time, he returns with his sixth adaption of popular satirist Bohumil Hrabal’s novel “I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND” that continues a similar theme of apprenticeship, sexual innuendo and German occupation but this time around, his latest film is about a man who worked hard, played hard but wanted too much and in the end, has his share of bad luck.
The film is told in two stories based on the same man, Jan Dite. You see an older Jan (Oldrich Kaiser) being released from prison and entering back into the real world and starting over with his life. He encounters a beautiful woman and all of a sudden you get to learn about the story of Jan when he was younger (played by Ivan Barnev).
Jan Dite was an ambitious man. He started work as a young man selling frankfurters and his first taste of money serving a wealthy man which he was unable to give his change to.
Eventually, Jan moves up and starts work as a waiter at the local pub, Jan had the opportunity to serve the richest men in Czechoslovakia and also see beautiful women enter the pub. But he learns about greed earlier on and that throwing his coins towards the floor, how fast people of different social levels would get to the floor quickly to pick them up. Jan gets a kick out of this and enjoys throwing his coins to see how people will react.
During one encounter with a very rich man that he encountered when he worked at the frankfurter stand, he sees the man laying his money down on the floor as like a carpet full of money. He is recognized as the guy who still owes him change but the wealthy man gives him advice. He is just in awe by it and thus he starts doing the same thing. If anything, Jan wanted to be wealthy. The ability to throw his money away on things that he always wanted.
After seeing a beautiful woman come into the pub with only a dress and seeing the men at the pub just gawk at her, he ventures into a local brothel and finds her and eventually uses his money to pay for her time. He then starts to become artistic with his lovemaking, afterward decorating her body with flowers and the holding a mirror in order to show her how artistic and caring he is for her. Eventually the woman enjoys the time they have together that she starts to visit his workplace even more and eventually getting him into some trouble.
But it’s OK as the woman he has been having sex with eventually sets him up with a higher and more luxurious job in a mansion with its owner who pretty much makes money by having beautiful women service the wealthy and the top tier of the military.
With a new job and a new life, this time Jan makes more money and would eventually want to save up, so he and the maid can have their own life with each other. In fact, he has since moved on from putting flowers on top of a women he has sex with but now putting money on top of their body and holding a mirror up so they can see revel in his artistic creation. But for Jan, it isn’t enough. He eventually has worked himself into a higher position serving richer clients who pay him more money. He realizes that maybe he can continue working and eventually one day become a millionaire and own his own luxury hotel.
After being paid loads of money by a client at that job, he decides its time to move on and he then makes his way into a posh hotel in Prague known as the Hotel Paris in which he learns from the best. A man who served the King of England and as an butler, he learns about the clientele that come in and how to serve them. This time even more rich clientele come and when he gets his chance to become the main butler, he gets to see how the rich have their fun with the women who go upstairs. He eventually gets to partake in such an event and eventually indulges.
But life changes for Jan when he falls for a woman named Liza (Julia Jentsch), a staunch Aryan who loves Hitler’s philosophy of the master race. As Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany start their quest to occupy Czechoslovakia, the multi-ethnic city of Prague which Czech, Germans and Jewish starts to change. For Jan, he falls in love with Liza but in order to have sex and marry her, he must prove that he has German ancestry and undergo testing for racial purity. Because Jan has grown close to a German and hardcore Nazi supporter, he has become looked at as a traitor to his Czech countryman.
Jan is literally blinded by wanting to have sex with this woman who is not giving it up to him as easily as the other women and his thirst for become a millionaire that what is happening to his country, his people and the Jews, is just something that doesn’t concern him. He pretty much starts to think of himself as a German.
The film is focuses on how Jan climbed his way into luxury from love making and learning the ways of the rich but eventually hitting a major snag because of the World War and falling for a woman who is an enemy to his countryman.
The film switches back and forth to from younger Jan to older Jan. Older Jan having to rebuild his life starts to become attracted to this young woman he has met, but each time he tells the young woman about his past, she doesn’t really believe him. If anything, this woman is quite carefree.
But for older Jan, he it’s about living this new life of his. Learning from his past as how he once dreamed and how he achieved his goal. But how he achieved it, he realizes that he was not a good man at all. Knowing how much his thirst for money has led him to nothing but bad luck.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND” is featured in 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Picture quality is pretty good as Jan’s younger life features more vibrant, brighter colors. While Jan’s life when he is older, features a more gray and darker feel. But overall, the picture quality was good on DVD.
The audio is Czech 5.1 (Dolby Digital). The film is primarily dialogue driven and I don’t recall hearing the rear channels being used for any special effects or anything. But all in all, the dialogue is clear and you can hear the vocals well and also the classic music of that time.
Because this is a foreign film for many, the English subtitles are big and yellow and easy to read onscreen.
There are no major special features included on this DVD. You do get the trailer and also trailers for upcoming Sony Pictures Classics films. But that’s about it.
“I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND” is humorous film and an erotic and kinky film. There is quite a bit of nudity as the locations where Jan works are where beautiful women serve the rich and famous of his country. Sex is an important theme of the film but is not overdominating. If anything, this film is about a man who manages to quickly climb the employment ladder and eventually working for important people. As for the long awaited film by Jiri Menzel, nearly 40-years since his Academy Award winning film, Menzel manages to create another film where apprenticeship, sexual relations and German occupation becomes a big theme. But with this film, there is quite a bit of reflection as we see older Jan knowing that becoming a millionaire and having those dreams have just cost him things that he has cared about in life.
Without spoiling anything, Jan’s character learns the error of his ways when he was older, especially with the involvement with the Nazi and what happened to his countryman. By no means does this film glorifying the Nazi regime. If anything, the film is very much about karma and it coming back to bite Jan for what he’s done.
I was quite pleased with the film because it’s quite fresh and unique during this modern age. The film at most part is filled with a good dose humor and erotica and only until we reach near the end of the tale of young Jan, does the story become a bit more serious.
The film incorporates a lot of the classic music of the time, incorporates wartime footage and overall the set design and costumes really are effective in establishing that pre-war time period quite well.
Ivan Barnev who plays the young Jan Dite, does such a great job with the role. In a way, he’s quiet and speaks several lines but it appears that for young Jan, it’s all about his facial expressions and body movements. Something that is reminiscent of the classic Charlie Chaplin films. And also Oldrich Kaiser, despite being an older Jan, bares a striking resemblance to the actor. The blue eyes of Barnev and Kaiser and the facial expressions of young and old were effectively done in this film. Great casting for both major roles.
Overall, the film was quite enjoyable and well-written. Jiri Menzel definitely returns with another awesome film that manages to have the right cast, great set production and costume design, music and I am not surprised why this film has amassed many awards throughout Europe.
“I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND” is a humorous and erotic film that will entertain fans here in the US who are looking for a well-done foreign film. Recommended!
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