DVD Review: Closely Observed Trains

If you ask most people in this country to name a famous Czech writer it’s odds on that the response will be either Franz Kafka or Milan Kundera. However, if you were to ask the same question in Prague or Brno you’re likely to receive a different reply. There’s a good chance the response you’ll get is Bohumil Hrabal. Czech New Wave director Jiří Menzel decided to make an adaptation of his book of the same name for his debut film, Closely Observed Trains.

Set during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia during World War II, shy teen Miloš (Václav Neckář) starts his first job as a railway dispatcher at a rural railway station. In the sleepy confines of the station he’s more concerned with losing his virginity than trains. Miloš is in love with a pretty young conductor Máša (Jitka Bendová) but is struggling with premature ejaculation. Sex is not a problem for his colleague Hubička (Josef Somr) who’s very experienced in this area whilst the moral degradation in the town is driving the stationmaster (Vladimír Valenta) to despair.

Arrow breathe new life into one of the greatest triumphs of the Czech New Wave in this new 4K restoration by the Czech National Film Archive. It looks absolutely stunning. Menzel deservedly won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film and in my opinion it’s up there with the best films of all time. Essentially a coming of age comedy, Menzel plays with ideas of resistance and ennui with barely contained glee. If you’ve never seen Closely Observed Trains there’s never been a better time.

Special Features
·         New 4K restoration by the Czech National Film Archive
·         High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
·         Original Czech soundtrack in uncompressed PCM mono audio
·         Optional English subtitles
·         Appreciation by Peter Hames, author of The Czechoslovak New Wave
·         Archival interviews with director Jirí Menzel, cinematographer Jaromír Šofr and film historian Jan Lukeš
·         Closely Observed Films: Michael Brooke explores the six-film collaboration between Menzel and novelist Bohumil Hrabal
·         Reversible sleeve featuring two pieces of artwork from the original release

Closely Observed Trains is released on DVD and Blu-ray by Arrow Academy today.

Previous DVD Review: The Fallen Idol
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