DARK BLUE WORLD
Five years after the end of World War II, Franta Slama (Ondrej Vetchy) is a prisoner in a labour camp in Communist Czechoslovakia, for having been one of the fighter pilots in the RAF; he’s considered an ‘enemy of the people’. From his grim quarters, Franta recalls those war years, when he and his young protégé, Karel Vojtisek (Krystof Hadek) escaped the Nazis at the beginning of the war and trained and fought alongside the British pilots. And how he and his best friend also fell in love with the same woman (Tara Fitzgerald), in an affair that tested their friendship to its absolute limits.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With its poetically romantic ending (in the context of friends, not lovers), Dark Blue Sky closes with a great big sad note in the true melancholy style of much European art. At the same time, the film is robust and engaging, with superb sequences of dogfights in the air, made all the more dramatic by a neat combination of camera angles, script and direction. The story is told in a series of flashbacks cut into the final chapter of the story, when Franta, now in his 40s, finally gets to go home to the girl – but people have moved on. By this time, we have seen Franta go through the war in a set of bitter sweet experiences that resound with irony. Romantic love turns dangerous, and the war is a frightful backdrop for the pain of broken hearts. Tara Fitzgerald is terrific as the wife whose husband is missing at the front, confused and lonely, vulnerable yet meaning to be strong. Ondrej Vetchy and the young Krystof Hadek are excellent in their dual-language roles (the latter reminiscent of a younger Aden Young) and the marvellous production design blends seamlessly with the model work and FX that brings this film together in a fine, emotionally and entertainingly satisfying way. It deserves its place as the official Czech entry in the Foreign Language Academy Awards (2002).
Review by Louise Keller:
Cinematic and emotionally compelling, Dark Blue World is a richly poignant story about heroes, friends, lovers and patriots. Set on a quicksand canvas of war, Jan Sverak presses all our emotional buttons by opening our eyes and hearts to the little and very human things to which we can all relate. How could we ever forget that scene in the airfield, when Franta (Ondrej Vetchy, superb) telephones his colleague at the other end of the airstrip and asks that he puts his beloved dog on the phone. Of course, when the dog hears his master's voice, he immediately responds, turns around, sees him and races into his arms. This special relationship takes on new meaning later in the film and warrants one tissue of its very own. Top marks to the four-legged actor for a doggone expressive performance. Dark Blue World is above all, a film about relationships and Franta's relationship with Karel quickly becomes the film's focus. Karel (Krystof Hadek, captivating) represents youth and his unabashed, unbridled enthusiasm for everything from his country to the new lady in his life is invigorating. When Karel and Franta fall in love with Susan (Tara Fitzgerald, impressive), we feel for both of them and understand how each of them feels. We fly with the pilots - each day more uncertain than the next - and in the evenings when spirits have been squashed, another kind of spirit is used as therapy with the soulful pianist as moderator. Told in flashback, much of the film's poignancy is the story's unfolding. Performances are wonderful and the tension and fear is counterbalanced by the joyous simplicity of everyday humour. Just like Kolya remains unforgettable, the emotional heart of Zdenek Sverak's heart-wrenching script goes to the very nerve of our senses. Father and son – an impressive team – and the whole Kolya crew are reunited in this ambitious and engrossing tale of reflection. It isn't until the final fifteen minutes of the film that I realise how much Dark Blue World has affected me. Its melancholy, bittersweet irony and uplifting human spirit has stayed with me, leaving an indelible mark.
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DARK BLUE WORLD (MA)
CAST: Ondrej Vetchy, Tara Fitzgerald, Krystof Hadek, Charles Dance, Oldrich Kaiser, Hans-Jorg Assman
PRODUCER: Eric Abraham, Jan Sverak
DIRECTOR: Jan Sverak
SCRIPT: Zdenek Sverak
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Vladimir Smutny
EDITOR: Alois Fisarek
MUSIC: Ondrej Soukup
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jan Vlasak
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 18, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: February 26, 2003 (Also on DVD)