Total Film - 06/01/2008 3 stars out of 5 -- "Menzel is faithful to the novel and makes good use of his stunning Prague locations. A sweet, melancholic film..."
Empire - 06/01/2008 5 stars out of 5 -- "Ivan Barnev plays like a blond, European Zach Braff, all wide-eyed wonder at the fun that life can bring....An utter delight."
Sight and Sound - 06/01/2008
"Visually, I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND is lithe and imaginative. It uses music, montage and silent-movie conventions with wit and energy."
Film Comment - 07/01/2008
"[A]n impeccably designed and orchestrated comedy of manners that targets the pre-Communist frivolity of the Czech upper class, from the viewpoint of those waiting on them."
New York Times - 08/29/2008
"[The] scenes of marathon gourmandizing offer some of the most pungently satirical observations of unfettered gluttony ever filmed....There is hardly a moment in this new film in which you are not aware that its absurdist view of the human condition was shaped by traumatic 20th-century events."
Box Office - 08/01/2008 3 stars out of 5 -- "This splendid late-career offering emanates fairy-tale enchantment with touches of magical realism, while also accurately illustrating the precariousness of moral and ethical development..."
Entertainment Weekly - 09/12/2008
"[W]hat's news is how enduringly charming the Menzel touch remains....The sensibility still seems modern. For one thing, an assured eye for the absurd never goes out of fashion." -- Grade: A-
Czech director Jiri Menzel has worked only sporadically since making a splash in the 1960s with lauded features such as CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS. I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND is another welcome invitation to witness Menzel's singular vision, which is liberally sprinkled with homage to silent features, vaudeville, and slapstick. The film tells the story of Jan Dite, an ordinary Czech citizen who reflects on life after being released from jail. Much of the film is told in flashback, with Menzel transporting his audience back to Dite's younger days in Prague, both before and during World War II, where the young restaurant worker does whatever it takes to fulfill his dreams of becoming a millionaire. His reckless and frequently hilarious path to achieving his goal becomes the backbone of the movie, and Menzel deftly edits back and forth between the older and younger versions of Dite as his history is revealed.
The younger version of Dite is played to excellent effect by Ivan Barnev, who manages to make the character extremely compelling. Barnev and Menzel even conspire to find humor in Dite's darkest hours, such as his marriage to a Nazi (played by Julia Jentsch) and his job in a Czech "breeding center" set up to produce Hitler youth. Food and sex become important parts of the storyline as Dite demonstrates his passion for both, and the rampant urges of his younger self are neatly tempered by Menzel's flash-forwards to the older version of the character (played by Oldrich Kaiser). Like CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS, this feature is an adaptation of a novel by Czech writer Bohumil Hrabel, and it's another hugely entertaining and utterly peerless piece of work from an inspired director.
A busboy with an inferiority complex and a driving ambition to become a millionaire quickly rises to become a head waiter, but the respect he craves continues to allude him. When he marries a Nazi gym teacher, the Czechs despise him even more, while the Germans barely tolerate him. Rare stamps taken from wealthy Jews make his dream come true after the war, but his first-class hotel is soon nationalized by the Communists and he ends his life in poverty and isolation.
Based On A Novel |
Theatrical Release |
World War II