Closely Watched Trains (Ostre sledovane vlaky)

Closely Watched Trains

This is no laughing matter.

Closely Watched Trains is a film directed by Jiri Menzel at the height of the movement known as the Czech New Wave. It details the life and times of a young boy who becomes a train dispatcher at a local train station. Simple enough plot, and it’s the characterization that makes the film succeed so well at it.

What I found most entrancing about the film was how rugged and imperfect it was. It was well-filmed, but if you look closely, you can see the jitters from the mechanics of the film camera, the tiny little hiccups in the pans and tilts, all the little things that show that this was a movie that was filmed, but not large enough to be immersion-breaking. I found the whole experience quite charming. The film also makes great use of a filmic style that I have decided to call ‘moving portraiture’. Each frame of the film appears almost like a still photo, except for the difference of when those in the frame begin to move; it is quite beautifully composed when you pay attention to it.

I was surprised by this one; I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I ended up liking it. I don’t know how much of a general audience will end up liking it as much as I did, however; it’s very plain, and doesn’t have much overly going for it. Still, it’s a rare symphony of film composition, and one I would definitely recommend to the film scholar in most of us.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10

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