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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 35.14%
Average: 5.41%
Pretty Bad: 2.7%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 19 user ratings

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Dark Blue World
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by Thom

"Refreshing portrayal of friendship, love and loyalty in war"
5 stars

I wish I had only seen this and not Pearl Harbor. Iím not a fan of war movies or macho romance stories, but I like period pieces and cute guys so okay, sign me up. This Czech film by director Jan Sverak is skillfully executed, superbly acted and avoids all the clichťs of a war heroís story. This will dissappoint readers of pulp ďmenís adventureĒ, and it is just those people Iíd like to see watch this movie but idealism aside, those that do go see it will be pleased by the sensitivity and intelligence and the sheer strength of the characters trying to conduct themselves in a war.

I like the male cameraderie and going off to war to do the right thing of the first half of the film but when the plot spun around a romance I quickly lost interest and counted trees in the background. It was like losing your best friend to his girlfriend. Oh well, there goes all the fun.

Told from the point of view of a group of Czech pilots flying for the British Royal Air Force during WWII. Before the Americans entered the war, the Nazis occuppied Czechoslovakia . A group of pilots left for England. Those that were captured by the Nazis ended up in labour camps which ran until 1951 under the Communists, after which many of the ďtraitorsĒ were treated as outcasts until 1991 when their contribution to the war effort was recognized.

History really is written by the victors. If this film was a documentary about the pilots Iíd be more interested but the war is just the backdrop for the film which on the whole kept my interest because it made the war difficult, not simple or heroic.

And war is a difficult topic to cover. My preference is for a portrayal of war as ugly, dirty and beneath contempt. A symptom of a greater sickness infecting humanity. When you really look at the history of warfare in Europe you realize that everybody is playing the same game. If I conquer you and take your land so that I will have more land and power then thatís good. But if you conquer me and take my land thatís bad and you are the enemy. And when it comes right down to it, itís the people who have power that plunge the common people into war. Wars arenít started by plumbers and accountants, pastry chefs or gardeners. But these larger social catastrophes end up giving meaning to the lives of the workaday person taking care of themselves and their families.

It is this drive for meaning that causes us to pick teams and root for victory. Without conflict, there is no drama and this is just as true in real life as on stage. So conflict must be created. Instead of the conflict between humans and nature or humans and the capricious will of the gods, you have human against human for largely ideological reasons. But there is a line where political and economic domination becomes cruel slaughter and then the rules of engagement change. When the herd of women or future soldiers are threatened, or land or capital, then the mere encroachment of a paradigm shifting worldview is a direct threat to the body and one that must be defended.

In Dark Blue World, the focus is more on the mundane details of life under wartime but without a perspective. People want to protect life and family, they want to fall in love and have children. We really are more alike then different. The film is structured around the remembrances of a soldier, Franta Slama (Ondrej Vetchy) who is imprisoned in a labour camp after returning home. He is sent to the infirmary where he befriends the SS doctor in charge of his care. The SS doctor is portrayed as a doctor who, like all Germans under Hitler, felt a sense of national pride and was doing his job by participating in the war. The insular German madness is no different than any fundamentalist ideology that sees itself as the capital ĎTí truth. An affliction shared the world over. Franta tells his story while he recovers from pneumonia.

Obviously, since he is telling the story from prison, his story so far doesnít have a happy ending. And this is what I liked most about the film. Everything that is supposed to happen: save the country, get the girl, buy a clapboard box in a subdivision and consume, didnít. Because this is about Europe and not America but also because things just didnít work out the way Franta might have wanted. I guess people didnít get divorced back then because everyone stays together even though the person they truly love is available to them again. The sense of duty shared by the characters in the film isnít startling as much as it seems like a novel idea. The roots were just deeper, people dealt with the pain of life much more efficiently. Its like the whole continent is harboring a secret personal disappointment that adds poignancy to the simple act of hanging the laundry.

I donít long for those days and this is where making a historical drama becomes problematic for me. I donít live in the past. I donít cherish the simple values of yesteryear. I donít have these romantic ideas of a golden era when everyone and everything had a place and if we could only get back to that then life would be rosy all around. There are far too many shadows inside the human spirit that have been desperately clamboring to find a way out and Iím not going to shove them back into the dark. So I get a little bothered by the quaintness of that world the way it bothers me to hear my grandfather tell jew and nigger and fag jokes.

All in all, Dark Blue World is an interesting, complex story about war and survival, friendship and love. The cinematography is gorgeous and the occasional poetic reference points inside a scene, such as the reflection of barbed wire on the window as Franta looks out in a scene before he is imprisoned and the balloon that bursts when Franta and Karelís (Krystof Hadek) friendship turns cold moved the film closer to art.

A film like this should win awards and I wouldnít be surprised if it garnered an Oscarģ nomination. Politically, at least, it would propel a different kind of war hero cinema into a staid and formulaic American market to engender a more cosmopolitan culture so that we too can make movies that arenít provincial 1950ís social propaganda. Foreign cinema is good for you, America.

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originally posted: 01/05/02 10:35:15
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User Comments

11/17/05 sam fantastic 5 stars
7/10/05 Phil M. Aficionado Considering the low budget, it is a remarkably watchable film; pacing could be tightened up 4 stars
4/25/05 Gabby a nice little war drama 4 stars
4/12/04 Martin Buck A Poem on Film - magnificent! 5 stars
5/18/03 Y2mckay Solid acting, good script, competently filmed dogfights, love story not unbearable like PH 4 stars
9/29/02 Peter Sherlock Every cliche in the book and endless boring air fight scenes 2 stars
5/30/02 ^Elendil^ I didn't get much out of this. 3 stars
5/17/02 viking Not as good as Kolya, but definately worth seeing 4 stars
4/10/02 J. Anthony Excellent film -- much more heart and real life feel than the pulp in generic war movies. 5 stars
3/27/02 Dobrovsky Great film, great sound effects, incredibly attractive men. 5 stars
3/24/02 Dave This movie was pretty good and definatley deserves some Oscar consideration. 5 stars
3/21/02 Mr. Phill Fuck Seen 5 stars
3/17/02 Teresa Forgot I was reading subtitles. Loved it. 5 stars
2/16/02 The Critic of Bohemia No doubt intentionally moving, but not kitchy. Credible action scenes, good humor. 4 stars
1/30/02 J Waite Average 3 stars
1/28/02 Zuzana More than the best!!!!!!! 5 stars
1/09/02 Andrew Carden Better Then Pearl Harbor, but Still Doesn't Stay 100% True To The Fact. 4 stars
1/09/02 radium Nice acting, nice movie. 5 stars
12/31/01 Harper Sloane Better than Pearl Habor - less cheese, better dog fights 4 stars
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  28-Dec-2001 (R)



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