Tmavomodrý svet (Dark Blue World (2001)
Director: Jan Sverak
Starring: Ondrej Vetchý (Frantisek Sláma), Krystof Hádek (Karel Vojtisek), Tara Fitzgerald (Susan), Charles Dance (Wing Cmdr. Bentley), Oldrich Kaiser (Machatý), David Novotny (Bedrich Mrtvý), Linda Rybová (Hanicka), Jaromír Dulava (Kanka), Lukás Kantor (Tom Tom), Radim Fiala (Sysel), Juraj Bernáth (Gregora), Miroslav Táborský (Houf), Hans-Jörg Assmann (Dr. Blaschke), Thure Riefenstein (Oberleutnant Hesse), Anna Massey (English Teacher).
Czech pilots flee to England to join the RAF
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
1939. Czech pilot Franta Sláma shows his girlfriend Hanicka some of the instruments in the cockpit of a military airplane.
After World War II. In the Soviet Mirov Prison Franta is being scolded for not working hard enough. A fellow Czech pilot asks the guard to go easy on Franta because he's sick. The guard ignores the caution. Franta continues works but collapses.
During World War II hundreds of Czech pilots fought along side the British against the Nazis. After the communists seized power in Czechoslovakia, they jailed the pilots who had returned home. They feared these heroes would once again fight for freedom.
Mirov Prison, Forced Labor Camp, Czechoslovakia, 1950. A fellow inmate asks Franta what his name is and he tells the man. Then he asks Franta why is he in prison? Franta answers he's in prison because he flew for the Royal Air Force in England. Franta notices that the doctor treating him has a tattoo of the German SS. Yes, there are German prisoners of war here in the prison.
Czechoslovakia. Franta uses his airplane to buzz Hanicka.
Olomous Airfield Czechoslovakia, 1939. After landing his plane, Franta talks to a very young pilot named Karel who is is mentoring. He then calls his dog Barcha to come to him. The dog rushes over. He and Barcha go over to visit Hanicka. They go up to her bedroom. Hitler is speaking on the radio. Hanicka says that her mother told her that she will marry the street conductor Kanka one day. The couple laughs about this. Every night he works the street conducter serenades her with his violin.
The couple are in bed together naked. Dad knocks on the door and they both have to rush to put on some clothes. But dad is not worried about what the young people are doing , but rather the bad news on the news. "At 6 a.m. on March 15th the Armed Force of the German Reich will begin occupying our country. Any resistance will be met with brutal retaliation. All units will be disarmed."
Karel is trying to fly an airplane to Poland so the Nazis won't get their hands on it. Franta stops him from taking off. The commanding officer of the unit says that Poland is next in line after Czechoslovakia. And her comes the Germans. The commanding officer tells Franta to take over for him since his back is killing him and he has to have help walking. The German officer makes fun of the Czechoslovakian armed forces and Franta asks him to stop that. The German tells him to relax, that he was just joking.
Franta is going to leave Czechoslovakia and go England to fly planes there. He tells Karel that he wants him to come along with him. Franta leaves his dog with his girlfriend. He and Karel then leave on Franta's motorcycle which has a side car. His dog follows him and he has to demand that the dog return home. It's emotionally hard on Franta to leave his dog behind.
England, 1940. The group of Czech pilots practices their maneuvers by riding their bike to the attack against another unit on bicycles. They stop to watch a dogfight in the sky.
The Czechs have to take lessons is speaking English. Karel has a hard time with the language and starts to leave the classroom. The old English woman runs over to block his exit. She tells him frankly that she is fighting the war by teaching the Czech pilots English. She tells him: do not sabotage my war effort. Karel apologizes to her. Later Franta complains to their English commander that he is wasting the Czech pilots by keeping them on the ground. The commander says many a man has been killed by being too impatient to jump into war.
Mirov Prison. The German doctor tells the Czechs how proud he and other Germans wereof their great victories using the technique of blitzkrieg.
England. Three months later. The Czech unit finally gets the order to scramble. On their way to their target they get jumped by Messerschmitts by surprise. They lose one airplane and another one blows up on the airport field after returning.
Mirov Prison. Bedrich has nightmares. Franta comforts him.
England. Franta and Karel go after a German bomber. In the attack Karel gets hit and goes down. Franta is able to bring the bomber down. Back down on the ground the men get the order to disperse the planes. "Everything out of the hangar!" Karel is alive and manages to walk to an English house. Meanwhile the Germans bomb the airfield. Czech pilot Sysel gets badly hit. Karel explains to the woman that he is a Czech flying for the English. The woman lets him in. Her husband has been missing in battle for an entire year. The woman, named Susan, says she will call and report him alive to his commander. Karel, however, doesn't want that. He says he does not want to report in until tomorrow morning. Susan puts him up for the night. They end up having sex.
In the morning Karel is greeted by six children. Susan explains that they are not her children. They are all from London. There were evacuated away from the bombings.
Karel is back at the airbase. He talks all about Susan to Franta, saying that he thinks he's in love.
Mirov Prison. It the birthday of the German doctor. He gives Franta and Bedrich some liquor so they can drink with him.
England. Karel and Franta go to visit Susan. Franta waits by the car while Karel goes to the door. Susan and the children come back to the house and run into Franta first. He tries to explain who he is and Susan jumps to the conclusion that Karel has told Franta all about her and now he is here for sex with her. She tells Franta that she's not that kind of girl and she wants Franta to tell Charles (Karel) that he is not welcome at her place anymore. A little later Karel is able to straighten things out with Susan. Franta did not come here for sex with her. Still later Susan apologizes to Franta for the misunderstanding.
Back at the airbase the men learn that Sysel has died.
Mirov Prison. Czech pilot Honka is brought into the dispensary by two guards. Honka has really been beaten badly by the guard Kolick.
Susan writes a letter to Karel not to visit her anymore. Furthermore, she doesn't even want him to write her. Karel borrows Franta's car and drives over to see Susan. On his way, he passes a car coming into the base. The car coming in is driven by Susan. Franta explains that Karel just left to see her. He says they can catch up with him and he jumps into the car. Susan, however, does not drive after Karel. She tells Franta that she has come to see him.
The air commander tells his pilots that their target is the submarine dock at Brest. The Czech pilots will escort the bombers. They run into four Messerschmitts. Karel knocks down one of them and Honka gets another. The bombers get back to their home base. At night Franta tells Karel about Susan and him, but discovers the young fellow has already fallen asleep.
Franta goes to see Susan. It is, however, parents' visiting day, so he pretends he is lost and asks for directions to London. One of the parents gives him directions. Susan chimes in saying that he should travel slowly because there are pot holes in the road. So Franta leaves very slowly. Not long after he leaves, Susan drives up in front of him. They both get out of their cars and kiss.
Franta and Karel get permission for a foray into France. They are able to blow up a train, but an anti-aircraft gun hits Karel and he goes down in a field. He is able to get out of the cockpit before the plane explodes. Some farmers give Karel some clothes to put on and he hides his military clothing in a haystack. The Germans arrive to check out the farmers and ask them which way did the pilot go. The farmers point in the wrong direction. None of the Germans catch on that Karel is not French. After the Germans leave ,Franta lands his Spitfire. Karel sits partly on Franta in the narrow cockpit and they take off.
Franta visits Susan. She tells him that since the Germans stopped bombing London, some of the children have gone back home. She thinks she would like to keep the two children whose parents were killed in the bombings. Karel flies over the house and Franta has to hide. But Karel sees Franta's car in the driveway. When he gets back to base he grabs a motorcycle and heads out to Susan's place. He looks through a window and sees them having sex. He is crushed by what he sees and almost cries.
Back at base Karel gets drunk as he listens to Honka play the piano and sing Czech songs. Franta comes in and Karel tells Honka to tell Franta what he said. Honka explains that Karel does not want to fly with Franta anymore. As Franta talks with Karel, Karel gets furious and attacks Franta. He even strikes Franta before Honka can pull Karel off Franta. Karel tells Franta that he was always afraid the he (Franta) would be killed, but this is worse than if Franta had died. Franta says: "Forgive me, Karel, if you can."
Bedrich goes down in a dog fight, but lives. Karel shoots his weapons and some of the bullets hit Franta's airplane. When Franta gets back on the ground he goes after Karel, saying Karel would do all this over a woman? Karel only tells the commander that Franta seems to have a problem.
The air commander goes over the films of the fighting. He then shows them to Franta. The commander says Karel did not shoot at Franta. He shot at a Messerschmitt and as the German plane took evasive action, some of Karel's bullets hit Franta's plane. He says that Karel saved Franta's life. Franta tries to speak with Karel, but has to order the young fellow to listen to him. He apologizes for having accused Karel of trying to kill him and thanks him for saving his life by getting a Messerschmitt off his rear end. Franta says he was bloody stupid. Karel refuses to accept his apology.
Mirov Prison. Honka dies from his wounds inflicted by the prison guard.
The Czechs now escort American bombers. Karel has moved quarters away from Franta. Over the sea Franta has to bail out because his engine conked out. He tries to inflate his rubber dinghy, but it gets away from him. It inflates too fast and pops. Karel sees all this and stays behind with Franta. He tries to communicate with base to give Franta's position, but realizes that his radio wires have been broken by a bullet. Karel open his cockpit, pulls out his rubber dinghy and starts inflating it. He comes in real low over Franta, but he can't control his wings because the dinghy is inflating in his cockpit. A wing touches the sea and the plane smashes into the water. Karel is a goner. But the dinghy survives. Franta is able to swim over to it and get in.
Franta goes over to see Susan. He says hello, but she just shakes her head no. He realizes this is not a good time to visit her and then he sees why. He sees she is pushing her husband in a wheel chair. Franta asks the way to London and the husband gives him the directions. He asks if there are any potholes and Susan says no, he can drive at full speed. Franta leaves and never returns to see Susan.
Franta is back in his home town in Czechoslovakia. He wonders if his girl is still there. She is. He talks to her and she says that they said he was dead. She cries and Franta tells her not to. He starts to leave but sees a young girl with his dog. The dog greets him, but the girl tells him that the dog belongs to her and her family. Hanicka has married the street conductor. He realizes the girl is Hanicka's daughter. He starts to leave and the dog follows him. Franta tells his dog to stay and he leaves.
Mirov Prison. A guard goes to sleep at the work place and all the workers take a welcome break from work.
By 1951 all the Czech RAF airmen were released from the Soviet labor camps. But they remained outcasts for most of their lives, because of the Soviet control over the country. It was only in 1991 after breaking the Soviet control of the country that the survivors were rehabilitated and recognized for their war service.
Spoiler Warning for sure. Good story, but a sad one. Czechoslovakia was occupied by Nazi Germany. The Czech pilots escape to England to help fight the Germans. The Soviets come into Czechoslovakia and get rid of the Germans, but they then take over the country. Many of the Czech pilots die in service fighting the Germans. They then come home to Czechoslovakia only to find it so very different than the Czechoslovakia they once knew. The poor Czech officer in the film has additional trouble. His love affair does not go well in England and he loses his closes friend because of it. And then when he returns to Czechoslovakia he finds that his girl is no longer available because she thought he was dead. And then bam! The Soviets throw them all in jail or prison. (At least they didn't kill them all as the Soviets did at Katya to the Polish officers and intellectuals.) Damn those Soviets, eh?
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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