Ostre sledované vlaky (Closely Watched Trains) (1966)

 

 

 

Director:     Jirí Menzel.

Starring:     Václav Neckár (Milos Hrma),  Josef Somr (Hubicka),  Vlastimil Brodský (Zednicek),  Vladimír Valenta (Max),  Alois Vachek (Novak),  Ferdinand Kruta (Uncle Noneman), Jitka Scoffin (Masa),  Jitka Zelenohorská (Zdenka),  Nada Urbánková (Victoria Freie),  Libuse Havelková (Max's wife),  Kveta Fialová (The countess),  Pavla Marsálková (Mother), Milada Jezková (Zdenka's mother), Zuzana Minichova, Václav Fiser (Plasterer).

in Czechoslovakia a young man ignores the war, the occupation and the resistance to concentrate on his personal problems

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire summary. 

A young fellow named Milos Hrma talks about his happy family.  His great grandfather Lukas was a drummer in the military and fought on Prague's Charles Bridge.   He also was there when students threw cobblestones at the soldiers.  He was hit so hard that he got a pension for life of one gulden per day.  Everyday he bought himself a bottle of rum and a pack of tobacco.  Mukis' grandfather William was a showman, a hypnotist. 

And now Milos will be working on the trains  His own father was a locomotive driver and retired at the age of 48 ". . . and people are mad with envy . . .."  He watches the trains go by from a window in the house and sees if the trains are on time or not. 

Milos wears a uniform with a hat.  His mother is very pleased with him. 

Great grandfather Lukas liked to go watch the laborers work and make fun of them because they had to work.  For this he would get a beating at least once a year.  Then in 1930 he got beaten to death because he made fun of the quarry workers after their quarry had to close.  In March when the Germans crossed into Czechoslovakia grandfather William tried to stop the Germans by the force of hypnotism.  The lead tank did stop for awhile, but then it proceeded forward cutting off grandfather's head. 

Milos heads off for his job as a train-dispatcher.  He wants to do as little as possible and the job only requires him to stand on the station platform with a signal disc.

At this time there are many German military trains going back and forth at the station.  At work a fellow train-dispatcher named Hubicka shows Milos the job.  They have to open and close the double gates.  And they have arrivals and departures.  Very little work is done at the station and the workers have lots of periods of just sitting and watching. 

A train arrives and female worker Masa says hello to Milos.  She bends down to give him a kiss, but the train takes off before their lips meet.  Milos seems very taken with the pretty Masa.  His colleague tries to get Milos to describe what kind of girl is Masa, but Milos only says she's a "nice girl". 

The Countess comes riding down to the train station on her horse.  She tells the station master that she will need two freight cars to take her cattle to the slaughterhouse.  She adds that she will have to sell a few heifers so she can buy more fodder for the cattle.  She also says that the morale in her district is worsening.  She leans down from her horse to tell the station master that the church in Kostelni has to be consecrated all over again.  "There was fornication behind the altar."

Milos's colleague praises the look of the legs on the Countess.  Hubicka watches her every movement.  The station master tells him later:  "Woman, that's nature's jewel."  The colleague again asks about Masa and again Milos walks away without saying anything.  A woman takes a rabbit from the rabbits' cages and kills it for supper.

In one of the station rooms, a tailor works on making the station manager a railroad inspector's uniform. The station manager wants to move up to be the inspector.  The tailor tells the man that a railroad inspector is like an army major during the Austrian monarchy.    Milos knocks on the door and asks if the cars for the Countess should be put on track five?   Yes.  Milos is to do that first, but then he must polish his shoes and lastly he is not to talk with the conductor on the platform.  He warns Milos not to be like Hubicka, who will not be getting a promotion for the next ten years.  This is because the man is obsessed with women. 

An older man comes to speak to the station-manager.  He describes how the army has had to tactically withdraw in the areas around them.  Hubicka asks why and the older man says because the enemy is going to fall into their trap.  They will surround the Soviet and American forces in the area.  He is going to have the station employees sign that they will do their duties faithfully or will be subject to an assortment of nasty punishments, including the possibility of a death sentence. 

The train dispatcher's cousin comes for a visit to the station.  The station-master likes talking with her.  Milos comes inside to have his lunch.  Hubicka comes in with him.  While the station-master talks to her, she flirts with her eyes with Milos.  His wife calls for Maxie to come for lunch, but she has to call him a second time as he is busy with the pretty woman.  She calls a third time and then a fourth.

Maxie eats his lunch fast and listens to the laughter coming up from below with Hubicka flirting with the woman.  He wants in the worst way to go downstairs, but his wife makes him hold her yarn as she knits a sweater for the Countess. 

Downstairs Milos asks his colleague was he always as good with women from the very start?  Hubicka says he was not good with women at all when he was young. 

Maxie asks how long will this knitting take and his wife says two hours.  Now he really gets frustrated with the waiting and says that God should call down Armageddon on the people. 

Meanwhile, the cousin is getting buzzed on the wine that Hubicka keeps giving her.   He asks her to come with him into a more comfortable room.  He closes the door behind him.  He comes out to tell Milos to keep close watch while he's in the next room.  Milos mills around for a bit, but then he looks through the keyhole to see what's going on in the next room.  Hubicka comes bursting out of the room without his coat on and tells Milos that he's doing well, but he forgot to check on the telegraph.  Hubicas does something and then goes back into the next room.  He pauses just to tell Milos to remember the telegraph next time. 

Now Masa comes into the station house.  She tells Milos that she is just stopping by to talk with him.   Masa sits next to him, but just as she is about to kiss him, the sound of something being torn is heard, and Milos turns his head to see.  This discourages Masa and she says she will be on her way. 

A train with military supplies passes the station.  Cattle cars pass by the station.  Hubicka is a bit sweaty and goes outside to cool off.  There is quite a bit of snow on the ground. The station-master goes into the room with the sofa and cries out:  "They tore the sofa!"  He grieves over the tear in his "official Austrian sofa, in two parts".  He is furious that Hubicka had sex on the boss's sofa.  Hubicka is so happy that he whistles and sings. 

Hubicka asks Milos how's it going with Masa?  Milos says again that she's a good girl.  Yes, but how is she in bed?, asks Hubicka.  No comment.

Nurses are going to be delayed for the lack of availability of another engine. 

Someone says:  "Terrible the way the Germans carry cattle."  Milos goes outside and walks down the tracks looking at the nurses on the train cars. 

"Last time they carried three carloads of nearly dead sheep."  "The Germans are pigs."

German soldiers come walking over to Hubicka.  They want to know if this place is Milovice?  No, it's Kostomlat.  How far is it to Milovice?  Five kilometers. Just keep heading in the same direction and they will come to it.  The soldiers stop when they see the nurses on the train car.  The nurses smile at them.  So the soldiers take a break and go inside the nurses' car. 

Milos sees this and goes to look inside the car.  He pulls back a curtain and sees the nurses in the arms of the soldiers. 

Masa comes in on a train and asks Milos to come with her to her uncle's house.  Milos says he's working this evening, so Masa tells him to come after work and he can stay over night.  The train pulls out and Milos chases after it waving goodbye to Masa. 

A photographer takes photos of people at his studio.  Masa is helping him with the picture taking.  Uncle keeps touching the pretty young women getting their photos taken.  The young women even laugh about it because it's so brazen.  He even grabs Masa's rear end.  Masa takes Milos into the darkroom and kisses him.  She tells Milos that her uncle is crude, but he's kind.  They kiss again.  Uncle sneaks over to the dark room and starts to look through the keyhole.  The young women start laughing.  He shushes them but now lets them all take turns looking through the key hole.  Suddenly he bangs on the door and it opens.  The girls see the couple kissing.  They start giggling again and run out of the studio.  Masa gives a little laugh and returns to kissing Milos.  She looks very happy. 

At night the couple lays in bed in the small airplane model used in the photos by uncle. They renew their kissing.  Milos worries about being overheard by the uncle, but Masa says who cares?  He looks out trying to see if uncle is watching them.  Masa gets frustrated again with Milos, takes her blanket and pillow and goes to another room to sleep. 

The next morning Masa and Milos are both dressed for work.  An air raid siren goes off and a bomb drops near the studio, destroying the front of the shop.  Uncle wakes up and starts laughing his head off at the sight of his destroyed studio. 

Milos goes into a bordello.  The young woman asks him:  "For God's sake  --  you really don't have a girl with you?" No, he doesn't.  The woman asks:  "And do you want one?"  No.   She tells him that he has to be gone in an hour. 

Milos starts running a bath.  He gets into the tub and cuts his right wrist open with a straight razor.  A worker is banging a hole through a wall and sees Milos in the tub.  He sees the blood and runs to the rescue.  He knocks open the door to the room, grabs the unconscious Milos, ties cloth around his wrists and brings him out of the room. 

Milos is now in a hospital bed in pajamas.  His wrists and forearms are all bandaged up. 

It's midnight.  Hubicka comes into the station house.  He sits in a chair and rocks himself to sleep.  The young woman there is reading a book.  She turns around in her chair and when Hubica rocks back toward her chair, she grabs the top of the back of the chair and pulls the chair and Hubicka down to the floor.  He says he is going to spank her for this.  He starts to get up and she runs, laughing.  He chases her around the entire room and finally catches her.  He places her down on a table.  He kisses her.  He says he's going to spank her, but instead uses all the rubber stamps to stamp the back of her legs and buttocks.

Again Hubicka looks sweaty and is outside the office getting cooled down. 

The office woman sleeps in the kitchen in a bed.  Her mother starts to pull her blanket down to cover her legs and she sees all the stamps stamped onto her daughter's legs.

At the hospital Milos tells the doctor:  "So you see, doctor, I am not a real man."  The young doctor tells him that he is as healthy as can be. In fact, maybe he's even too healthy.  When a young man is too healthy he can suffer from premature ejaculation.  It's just that Milos is ovely sensitive.  This is normal. 

Mom takes her stamped daughter to work to complain about the stamps.  She says Hubicka did this to her.  She demands that they write a protocol on the matter.  One of the older men puts on his glasses and looks closely at the stamped parts.  He says that this type of ink will not wear off for about a week.  The girl, with her back to everyone, smiles.  They tell the mother that this matter will go to the district court. 

The doctor tells Milos that to slow down the ejaculation think of something else besides sex.  Think of soccer.  And get an older woman to lose his virginity too.  This could help him delay the ejaculation somewhat. 

Mother takes her daughter to see a three judge panel.  She shows her daughter's rear to them.  One of the judges asks if this is some new kind of social game?  The daughter nods yes.  The judge smiles and tells mom this is not a matter for the court.  Mom, if she wants to, can go complain about it to the railroad management.  Their disciplinary commission will take care of the matter. 

Milos now goes to see the railroad manager, the one who talked about the Germans settling a trap for their enemies.  The manager tells him to get out!  Milos hightails it out of there.  Outside the door he composes himself and starts again.  He knocks on the door this time and he salutes the manager when he comes into the office.  He also makes sure and salutes the manager.  The manager apologizes for shouting at Milos, but the young fellow must learn how to make a proper report.  Milos show his wrists to the manager and says the doctor says what he has is just a case of premature ejaculation.

The manager points to a map and tells Milos that the young people of the Hitler Youth are fighting and dying for a better Europe ". . . and what is your family doing for Europe?"  He looks through his files of the family and says his father just chooses to loaf around, while he could have been serving the Reich.  His grandfather tried to hypnotize the German occupation force.   "The youth of Germany is shedding blood on the battlegrounds and hooky player Milos Hrma sheds it in the bathtub of a bordello."  He goes on to warn Milos that he could charge the fellow with self-mutilation in order to avoid service to the Reich.  It also could be seen as "an act of sabotage".

The managers asks Milos what should he do with him?  Milos whispers that he could get an older woman for him to have sex with in the bordello.  The manager patiently says he has other, more important, duties to perform than procuring prostitutes.  "Out!" 

When Milos goes to work the station-master tells him that he has made their station infamous.  That's not good for the station manager.  What happened to you?  Milos shows the man his wrists.  And now he asks the station-master if he knows of any older woman who could help with his problem?  The station-master tells him that he will just have to find such a woman himself. 

Milos tells Hubicka all about it.  Hubicka tells him that he can't go around asking a woman straight out what he wants.  It has to develop gradually. 

Now Milos asks the same questions of a priest.  The priest tells him to go to the church and they will help him. 

A locomotive driver tells Hubicka that the partisans blew a closely watched train way up in the air.  The train and the bridge were both destroyed.  Now trains are blocked from getting to the front.  So more military traffic will be coming through this small station.  The password is Viktoria Freie. 

Somebody yells:  "Run, run.  The SS train stopped."  The partisans removed a section of the rails.  The SS sprayed the railway station there with machinegun bullets.  The train pulls in.  Everyone else is gone except Milos.  He stands saluting the train.  Two SS officers surround him with their pistols pointed at him.  They take Milos and they get on board in the engine room. 

Hubicka comes out looking for Milos, but can't find him. 

Milos passes by Masa walking along a path.  Milos keeps his hands up in surrender.  The commanding officer sees the cuts on the young fellow's wrists and indicates to his two SS officers to put their pistols away.  The train stops and Milos is allowed to dismount from the locomotive.  Milos runs back to his station.  Hubicka is very pleased to see Milos and says he will be eternally grateful for taking over his duty when the SS train came through. 

Hubicka now tells Milos that they themselves are going to blow up a train coming through the station at night.  The train is carrying 28 carloads filled with ammunition.

The railroad station-master is going to ride the horse belonging to the Countess to attend her dinner party. 

A train comes in and Masa jumps off.  She tells Milos that she is not angry with him.  She knows what happened and understands.   He tells her he will come see her the day after tomorrow. 

He goes to talk to the station master's wife.  Despite the warnings, he tells her about his problematic situation.  She doesn't answer him, so he says he hopes she's not mad at him.  She says she's not.

A woman comes to the station with a package.  She tells Hubicka and Milos that her name is Viktoria Freie.  She tells them that the train will be coming through in the morning.  The guys open the box and see a bomb inside.  Viktoria tells Hubicka to be careful with it!  She sees Milos's wrists.  Milos walks away from her.  Hubicka tells her about his situation.  She asks if she can take a nap somewhere.  Milos shows her to the couch room.  He starts to leave, but she wants him to stay.  He bows out, but Hubicka pushes him back inside the room and closes the door.  She asks him to sit down by her on the couch. 

She tells him to shut off the light.  Out it goes.  She lays back and opens her coat.  She brings his head down and kisses him. 

Hubicka keeps looking at the bomb.  Getting into a comfortable position, Viktoria rips the couch in a different place.  She laughs and laughs and this lightens the mood for Milos.  He laughs too.  She grabs him and holds him tight to her. 

In the morning, the station-master is sure that it was Hubicka that ripped the couch again.  He looks at the man outside who has his back turned to him.   As he watches Hubicka, the fellow turns around and the station-master sees that it is Milos out there whistling and looking contented. 

Hubicka tells Milos that the train will be coming through their station in about a half hour.  But soon after they set the bomb, the manager arrives.  With him are six other people.  Two of them are the stamped girl and her mother.  This is the disciplinary commission opening its investigation.  Now the station-master comes into the room.  He loves to work with his pigeons and he is covered with bird shit and bird feather.  He looks a mess.  One of the members of the commission asks him if he is the guy who really wants to be the railroad inspector? 

The railway manager asks the girl who stamped her and she says Dispatcher Hubicka.  The girls's name is Zdena.  The railway manager asks her if the dispatcher used force on her.  Not really. 

The train is coming in.  Milos has already climbed up to be on top of the signaling device.  As the train passes through, Milos tosses the bomb onto the tarp of a flat bed car rolling by.  A guard on the train sees Milos up on the signal device and shoots him with his automatic weapon.  Milos falls to the ground. 

Masa starts looking for Milos.  All of a sudden the blast goes off and ignites other blasts.  Masa is blown back a few steps as the wind and concussion hit her.  Hubicka laughs and laughs at the explosion .  A huge black cloud descends over the station. 

 

The hero of the film was Milos.  He is what you would call a very nice fellow.   He's is a good worker as a train dispatcher at a station in Czechoslovakia.  He is kind, sensitive, helpful, etc. , etc.  Perhaps he has been too protected at home because he is also quite naive about life.  Over and over he makes the same social blunders  --  remarks that a more experienced person would know not to say. 

He seems pretty oblivious to what the Nazis are doing to his neck of the woods and to the world.  And its with the same naiveté that Milos takes on an assignment with little or no real sense of the great dangers involved. 

And most of the people around him don't really realize the depths of his naiveté.  So, for instance, his girlfriend misinterprets his great shyness and rejects him at first.  This sends the young lad into a depression of sorts.  Then there is the example of his so readily accepting a very political act to perform without even a moment of reflection on his part.  He doesn't know how to handle his problems, which makes it only worse for him and others.

To tell the truth, I thought perhaps one days Milos would awaken from his naiveté by seeing trainloads of Czech Jews and others being shipped to concentration camps.  But that didn't happen, not in the film, at least. 

Václav Neckár (as Milos Hrma) and Josef Somr (Hubicka) were both very good in the film.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 

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