Zelary (2003)



Director:     Ondrej Trojan.

Starring:     Anna Geislerová (Eliska / Hana), György Cserhalmi (Joza), Jaroslava Adamová (Lucka), Miroslav Donutil (Priest), Jaroslav Dusek (Teacher Tkác), Iva Bittová (Zena), Ivan Trojan (Richard), Jan Hrusínský (Slávek), Anna Vertelárová (Helenka), Tomás Zatecka (Lipka), Ondrej Koval (Michal Kutina), Tatiana Vajdová (Anna Kutinová), Frantisek Velecký (Old Kutina), Viera Pavlíková (Old Kutinová), Juraj Hrcka (Vojta Juriga).   

a nurse and her lover in the Czech resistance are found out and she hast to hide in a very old-fashioned Czech village



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

A man and a woman kissing passionately, enter the apartment.  They keep on kissing.  He carries her to the bedroom.  (Brief nudity while they are on the bed.) 

May 1943.  The couple are interrupted by a telephone call.  The fellow is a medical doctor and he tells his girlfriend that a man was badly hurt in a sawmill accident and he has to go fix him up.  And the following day he has an operation to do in Czechoslovakia.  But, he is available all day Thursday. 

Nazi guards show the doctor where to park his car.  A guard asks the doctor if he is Dr. Littner?  Yes. 

Littner and his girlfriend Eliska walk down the hall of the emergency room.  Two other doctors greet him.  An older doctor tells him about the patient:  "By all rights, we should have lost him.  You're his last chance." 

Eliska falls asleep during the operation.  Littner comes out and wakes her up.  The patient needs blood and Eliska and the patient are the same blood type.  The transfusion is set up and begins. 

Eliska is once again going to serve as a courier for the Resistance.  She is briefed on the location of the building, the exits, the floors, etc.  She is to deliver the message through a slot in the target room door after she hears a vacuum being turned on. 

Eliska begins her spy trip.  She reaches the building which says on it:  "Shelter for Non-Aryans".  She slips into the building but runs into a fellow dressed like a Gestapo man.  Eliska passes by him in silence, but the fellow says good day to her.  She repeats the greeting to him.  The man keeps watching her, so she passes by the target apartment and goes up some more flight of stairs.  She pretends to be opening the door of an apartment when the door suddenly opens.  An old man and woman let her come in.  She looks out the peep-hole and is satisfied that the Gestapo fellow is leaving.  She turns and asks if she can use the bathroom?  In the bathroom Eliska tears up the message and flushes it down the toilet. 

Eliska serves beverages to the patients on her ward.  A patient she calls Mr. Janda tells her thanks for the coffee, doctor.  (Janda is the man that received a transfusion of blood from Eliska.)  Eliskia reminds the patient that she is a nurse and not yet a doctor.   She adds a question:  how could she be a doctor when they closed the medical school down?

Back at home, a doctor named Slávek tells Eliska that she must leave.  He gives her money, ration coupons, New York City papers and all the documents she will need.  He says that the Gestapo got the couple she was to deliver the note to.  Tonight Eliska will take an ambulance to Krenovice.  Janda will meet her there.  They will then continue on by train.  Eliska says she must see Richard before she leaves.  Slávek says no.  Richard already emigrated.  Eliska says she doesn't believe it.  No one can emigrate now.  But Slávek has his story and he's sticking to it. 

Eliska starts crying.  Slávek tells her that everyone knew that she and Littner were together, so he is going to tell the Gestapo that Eliska went with Littner. 

Eliska arrives at the train station.  Janda is also there.  The train arrives, Eliska gives Slávek a kiss on the cheek and off she goes with Janda.  The two ride the train in silence until the next morning.  They stop at a railway station.  The doctor who brought Janda into see Dr. Littner is already at the station.  A guard checks his bag.  The doctor tells Eliska that he will place the bag on the train.

Eliska and Janda are back on the train.  Eliska has the bag.  Now she talks with Janda.  She says her new name is Hana Hofmanova.  Janda practices using the new name of Hana.

They arrive in Sadova Hut'.  Eliska tells Janda to stop being so formal with her.  When they reach the village, Janda says that she will have to live in a place temporarily, but he is going to examine the cottages left by those who died or left the village and pick one out suitable for Hana. 

A little girl on the street is amazed that Janda is not dead, but actually here back in their village.  He tells Hana that the girl is the daughter of Zena Bojarova. 

The owner of the place where Hana will stay temporarily says Hana can stay a few day, "if we're good enough for her."  Janda shakes his head at the later remark.  The hostess says she will not be asking Hana any questions.  Janda says that's a good idea. 

Hana sees kids teasing the little girl.  They call her "Zelary, celery" because she is from Zelary. 

The woman shows Hana to her room and gives her fresh linens.  Hana lays down and goes to sleep.  Early the next morning she puts her coat on and with the bag she starts walking.  She goes to the railway station.  The doctor comes for her, telling Hana:  "You've acted very dangerously."   She fires back that Slávek wouldn't have sent her here if he had known what the place was like.  The doctor tells her that Slávek is dead.  "The Gestapo came for him."  If Hana is caught, everyone who helped her, including the village doctor, will be executed. 

The doctor says that she is going to go to Zelary and marry Janda so the doctor won't have to hear about Hana again. 

In Zelary the kids are attending school.  The teacher and the priest want to know who stole the boards from Burda's fence?  No one says anything.  So the teacher calls on Lipka, a friend of Zelary.  The teacher takes Lipka in the room where beatings are handed out.  The priest says a beating will not help in this situation.  The teacher, alone with Lipka, decides not to beat the boy.  He just tells Lipka to get out of his sight.  You don't have to tell Lipka twice  --  he quickly leaves.

Hana is hanging up her clothes to dry, when Janda comes over and tells her that she is to stay inside.  He doesn't want everyone looking at her and wondering who is she?  He goes on to say that children can't be trusted.  That's why he doesn't want to see Hana talking to any of the kids. 

At night the priest comes in to talk with the teacher in the library.  The teacher tells the priest that he hasn't been able to sleep ever since Hana came to the village.  The priest ignores that and tells the teacher thank you for not giving Lipka a beating.  Teacher says:  "Most of the kids here are headed for the gallows."  The priest thinks more highly of the students.  Teacher says he is going to tell Lipka's stepfather what the boy did.  The priest tells him not to do that.  "His stepfather will kill him."  Teacher says he is asking for a transfer.  There's a knock on the door and the teacher almost jumps out of his skin he is so scared.  But it's only Janda who wants to have a word with the priest.

Hana moves out of her temporary quarters.  Janda takes Hana to her new place via horse and buggy.  From the window, the teacher watches as Hana leaves. 

Janda drives out into the country side. As they reach the small house, Janda says that Lucka lives above her place and Zena lives next to her.  Juriga lives below Hana.  There is no electricity in the house.  Hana hears the noise of the flies buzzing around.  Janda leaves to take the horse back to the mill. 

Janda returns and builds a good fire for Hana.  A big dog named Azor comes into the house.  Hana remarks that now she has two guards.  She pets the dog.  The three of them sit around the fire. 

Janda talks to Hana abhout the marriage coming up, but she says she is tired and wants to go to bed.  So he takes her to her room.  Hana drags a big chest over to the door to prevent anyone from coming in unexpectedly.  She opens a box  in the bag the village doctor gave her.  She takes out a scaple to protect her from any invasion of her privacy. 

Early in the morning, Janda pushes aside the big chest with the bedroom door.  He introduces Zena Bojarova to Hana.  He says that Zena will help dress Hana.  Hana says she can dress herself.  And why is everyone so certain that she is going to marry Mr. Janda?   Janda says it's her only option.  She has no place where she can go without facing certain death.  Hana says Janda is not going to tell her what she can and cannot do.  Janda tells her that the villagers will not accept her if she stays a single woman. 

Hana puts on her own clothes.  She hates the traditional wedding dress and everything else about the village.  Zena tells her she must wear something traditional to the wedding.  And Hana will have to wear a scarf until her hair grows out. 

The kids are all super-excited about the wedding.  They run along behind the couple to be wed.  Hana is dressed as she should be, according to tradition.   The priest speaks to the couple in private.  Hana is not going to cooperate with him, so the priest tells her:  "Your presence her in Zelary is forcing me to commit fraud."

The wedding takes place and, afterwards, there is a big reception with the entire village.  Some of the young men want to dance with her.  She dances once but then begs off because she doesn't know the dance. 

At night Hana cries.  Janda asks her if he can sleep in the bed with her.  She doesn't put up any objection.  Now the dog comes in and wants to sleep in the bed. 

Hana awakens the next morning.  Janda and Azor are already outside.  She walks out onto the porch and looks over the agricultural fields.  The view is very pretty. 

During the day, Hana gets pretty bored.  She starts investigating every inch of the house.  And she starts cleaning the house.

She has supper ready when the dog and Janda arrive back at the house.  She serves him his food, but she sits down by the stove, not at the table.  Janda tells her that tomorrow he will be helping to mow Juriga's meadow.  He gives some of his food to the dog, but the dog refuses to eat it.  Janda chuckles to himself.   Hana is not amused. 

Hana watches the men mowing the meadow.  The young man who danced with Hana at the wedding talks with her telling her she's safe here in the village.  He wonders out loud how she ended up with an old man like Janda?  She says they met at the hospital.  He soon starts getting fresh with her, putting his left hand between her upper thighs.  She tells him:  "Get your hands off me, you pig!"  He tells her not to worry, because they will have many more opportunities to dance. 

Everyone takes lunch now.  When Hana is back she cries again.  Janda doesn't know why she is crying. 

The Czech police arrive at the house along with some villagers.  A policeman tells Hana that he has to register her and to do that, he needs to see her papers.  Hanna shows them her passport.  She then fills out the registration form and the police say they are done.  Everyone leaves.  Hana takes a big swig of vodka from the bottle. 

The school teacher/principal  comes up to the house.  The men are working on the floor of the Janda cabin.  The principal asks Zena if she knows that her daughter Helenka is friends with Lipka?  Yes.  He says that Lipka is a bad influence on Helenka.  The lad has made her daughter obstinate and stand-offish.  Zena is not concerned.  The principal finally gives up on Zena and says goodbye to her and the others.

Hana likes the new flooring. 

Lipka sneaks into his own house to grab some food.  His stepfather (the one who is very fresh with Hana) grabs his belt and really starts beating the boy.  Lipka's mother gets in his way and this gives Lipka enough time to run out of the house and get away.  The stepfather tells his poor wife that this isn't Lipka's home any more and:  "I don't want to see your bastard again!"

Janda takes Hana with him to see his mother's grave.  The principal visits the priest and says he's worried that the wicked stepfather might kill Lipka one day. 

Lipka goes down to the creek to cool off the welts on his back from the beating his stepfather gave him. 

At night when Janda returns home from working, a bath tub and soap awaits him.  So he takes a bath and puts on the clean night shirt.  He comes to the bed and asks Hana if he can touch her?  She says yes.  She takes off her night shirt.  (Brief nudity.)

Autumn 1943.  Shots are heard in the valley.  It starts pouring rain and Hana is caught out in it.  There are a lot of dogs heading her way barking like crazy.  The Germans are chasing a young village girl with them.  Hana is scared and gets away from the Germans.  She comes to the girl's house.  The house has been burned down and three family members are hanging by their necks from the limbs of a tree.  Panicked she runs through the woods trying to get back home.  Her face gets all scratched up.  Lipka is hiding out there and he sees Hana.

It is getting dark and Hana is sitting at the base of a huge tree trying to stay dry and warm.  She hears more noise and fears it's the Germans and their dogs.  But it's Azor who finds her.  Behind Azor comes Janda.   She is so very happy to see the both of them.  Janda carries her back home.  He then rushes out and brings back their neighbor Lucka.  She will minister to Hana who looks very sick indeed. 

Janda says that Hana got all the way out to the old mill by the swamp.  He makes a warm bath for her and puts her into the tub.  After the bath, Janda helps dry his wife off with a towel.  Lucka tells Janda to put her on the table.  The old woman uses vodka as an antiseptic to be placed on all the wounds Hana received while running through the briars and swamps. 

Hana starts to tell Janda about the house burning, but Janda knows more about it than she does.  He says the Germans burned down the cabin of the gamekeeper because he was hiding partisans.  The partisans got away.  Hana says she saw the bodies of the gamekeeper and his family hanging from a tree.  Janda tells her to never again wonder so far away from the cabin.

An old woman comes out to the old mill.  She shouts that she brought food for Lipka from his mother.  She also yells that Lipka's mother wants Lipka to come home now.  So, she says, the boy should stop his sulking and go back home. 

In the snow Helenka calls out for Lipka.  He comes up behind her and puts his hand over her mouth so her shouting will be stopped.   He takes her over to his little camp sight.  There he gives her some chocolate from a chocolate bar.  He says the chocolate came down from out of the sky.

The little girl now goes over to the saw mill.  She tells Janda that Lipka is doing very well and food falls out of the sky for him.  Helenka says she has some of the secret food, but Janda can't have any because it is secret.  Hana arrives with lunch for Janda.  They sit down for lunch.  Helenka comes over and tells them to close their eyes and open their mouths.  She then places a piece of chocolate into their mouths.  They like the taste.

The evil stepfather, known as Michal, knows that Hana is in the sawmill with Janda.  The wicked fellow goes to look for Hana.  He goes into the office.  Hana is taking a shower in a corner of the room.  The fellow takes off his clothes and rushes into where Hana is showering.  He grabs her saying that she promised him a dance.  Helenka goes looking for Hana.  She hears Hana crying.  Helenka opens the door and sees what's going on.  She rushes to tell Janda.  Janda rushes in to check on Hana and then he goes after the wicked one.  The step father wounds Janda in the arm with his knife, so Janda now snaps the man's right arm in two. 

The other workers pull Janda off of Michal, who calls Hana a slut and says he just wanted a bit firsthand.  One of the workers tells Michal that if any harm comes to Hana, they will know where to come for the perpetrator. 

At home Hana sews up Janda's wound.  Lucka says Hana can go birthing with her anytime and that Hana's talents are being wasted just staying at home. 

In bed Hana is in a good mood with her husband.  They play around for awhile before hugging and rolling around. 

Lucka, Zana and Hana get drunk and sing.  Lipka arrives telling the women that his mother is bleeding.  She fell down.  Lucka and Hana go out with Lipka to his house.  Grandfather tells them that Lipka's mother miscarried and she is bleeding badly.  Grandfather says he will go get the doctor, but Lucka tells him that it's already too late even for a priest.  Lucka goes over to Michal and slaps his face four times.  

Hana thinks they can still save her if they can get her down the hill.  They strap the mother to a sled and start running downhill, but the mother dies on the way down hill. 

Zana cries over the news.  She keeps Lipka with her.  When the children are in bed, Zana starts drinking vodka. 

Lipka shows up at a house and is invited in.  The husband says that if Lipka will chop wood for them, he can eat with them whenever he is hungry. 

Janda brings water to the house via a system of halved and hollowed-out tree limbs.

Lucka teaches the names of the flowers in the meadow to Hana. 

The woman in the family for who Lipka chopped wood has a baby.  Another village man comes around and says that the baby is his.  The father-in-law of the woman chases the man off with his rifle. 

In bed Hana tells her husband that she still plans on going to medical school.  He says he has big plans too.  (Brief nudity.)  But it's all a secret.  He will buy some sheep.  Hana laughs at the idea. 

German soldiers burst into the church during a mass and order everyone outside.  Everyone goes outside.  The man in command is with the German SS.  He pulls out a pistol, forces one of the village prisoners he has with him onto his knees.  He shouts:  "For hiding an enemy of the Reich  - death!"  He shoots the prisoner dead.  With that done the Germans walk away. 

Spring 1945.  Helenka goes in to talk with the priest. 

Soviet soldiers are in the woods.  Helenka sees them coming and runs to warn the village.  The village, however, is being liberated from the Germans.  The village throws a big celebration for their Russian liberators.  A Russian soldier tells Hana that she looks like his sister.  Hana laughs. 

On the way back home, Janda tells Hana that now she can go to her real home.  Maybe someone is waiting for her?  She says no one's waiting for her. 

The village man who claimed that the new baby is his sets up the new mother to be raped by a Soviet soldier.  As the man stands and watches the young woman being raped, the woman's father-in-law shoots the man in the back.  He then shoots the Soviet rapist.  Along comes another Soviet soldier and he kills the father-in-law.  The soldier cries about losing his brother and now fires his automatic weapon at the farm house.   The young woman with her baby is almost hit by one of the bullets.  Everybody in the valley hears the burst of automatic weapon fire. 

A Soviet soldier shoots down the priest trying to come to the rescue of the village principal.   The principal pulls the priest's body into the church.  Lipka takes the woman and her baby to his hiding place.  He tells the woman to stay there. 

A Soviet soldier finishes raping a woman.  He goes outside to take a piss and is shot in the back by one of the village men. 

Lipka leads all the villagers he can get his hands on to the old mill and away from the wild soldiers.  Janda carries the wicked stepfather to the old mill.  He then goes back out to retrieve another wounded villager.  Meanwhile, the young Soviet soldier who thought Hana looked like his sister finds the old mill site.  Hana fixes up the leg wound received by Michal.  The young soldier disappears below the water in the boggy part of the swamp.  During the night more and more villagers arrive at the old mill. 

A young farm worker gets so panicked that he wounds Janda with a bullet from his rifle.  They almost reach the old mill when they are surrounded by Soviet soldiers.  Fortunately, the principal is with the Soviet commander and he tells the commander that all these people here are villagers.  There are no Germans among them.  The commander gives the order not to fire.  Janda and the young farm worker realize they have been spared and hug each other and laugh.  A little later Janda sinks to the ground. 

The principal runs right into the much maligned Lipka.  Lipka tells him to follow him.  The principal and the soldiers follow Lipka to the place where all the villagers are hiding.  The villagers are much relieved when they see that the Soviets now come as friends and not killers and rapists. 

Hana looks for her husband.  She see the young man with Janda.  Janda looks dead.  The farm hand calls out for a doctor.  A soldier covers Janda with an army blanket.  Hana cries and cries.  Azor stays by his dead master.  She walks over to the body and cries some more. 

Quite a few years later, a car drives into Zelary village.   Eliska and her husband get out of the car and go up the hill.  She runs into Lucka and is so happy to see her.  Both women start laughing and laughing together about old times.  



Good film.  It's a bit long at 143 minutes (not counting the credits at the end), but it kept my interest throughout.  A female member of the Czech Resistance has to hide in a small village far out into the countryside.  The woman takes a new name, Hana. She is a bit spoiled and childish, because instead of counting her blessings that she is still alive, she thinks the village is terrible and wants to run away, putting not only her own life at risk, but the lives of everyone who helped her escape.

She has to marry a village man named Janda or otherwise the villagers will never accept her into their village as one of them and to be hidden.  She agrees to the marriage but is uncooperative until the very end.  It's only with time that she finally adjusts to the people and the village and that her attitude starts radically shifting.  She forgets about the doctors she hobnobbed with, and loved.  She forgets about medical school for the near future.  She serves as a nurse/doctor for many of the villagers and saves lives. 

They are constantly harassed by the arriving German soldiers and then the Soviet soldiers arrive and act like the German soldiers, at least at first.  One thing for certain, Hana faces many challenges in her efforts to just survive the war. 

Anna Geislerová (as Eliska / Hana) and György Cserhalmi (as the village husband Joza Janda) were both very good.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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