Dark Blue World
review by Carrie Gorringe, 21 September 2001

26th Toronto International Film Festival

Somewhere in the middle of director Jan Sverák's film, Dark Blue World (Tmavomodrý svet) in the middle of a labor camp in post-World War Two Czechoslovakia, a former SS doctor who is now working for the Communists attending to sick inmates, states cynically (but truthfully) that there's not much difference between the two ideologies. This was not supposed to be the way things should have turned out; these inmates were former war heroes, trained pilots who fled from Czechoslovakia one step ahead of the Nazi invasion and fought as Czech patriots as part of the Royal Air Force. After the war, they were thrown into camps by the Communist government, which was afraid of the possibility that their prestige might persuade others to rebel against authority.

World 's storyline alternates between that bleak camp existence and the personal dramas that run through a particular Czech squadron as they fight the war. While training in Britain, ex-Czech squadron leader Franta Slama (Ondrej Vetchy) and his protegé, Karel Vojtisek (Krystof Hadek), both fall in love with a widow named Susan (Tara Fitzgerald). Predictably enough, this love triangle threatens the group's solidarity and, by extension, their ability to survive, both as a group and individually. Nevertheless, the film's concentration of resources upon historically accurate depictions (the choreography of the dogfights is impeccable, as is, more grimly, the recreation of the miserable conditions in the labor camp), and the relatively restrained passion in the actors' performances, always keep the film compelling to watch. The film occasionally threatens to drift into complete soap-opera kitsch, but watching a film balance on the edge of credibility, and then succeed most of the time, makes things all the more intriguing. The postscript informs us that these freedom fighters were not given official recognition until 1991, perhaps the most bittersweet aspect of all. Sverák (responsible for the 1996 Oscar-winning foreign film, Koyla) and his longtime screenwriter, his father Zdenek, demonstrate yet again that they are able to maintain a balance on that fine line between the uplifting and the lachrymose. The film is a tribute to an era in which it seemed as if everything of value was threatened, an issue which, in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks, has been made all too painfully clear.
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Directed by:
Jan Sverák

Ondrej Vetchý
Krystof Hádek
Tara Fitzgerald
Charles Dance
Oldrich Kaiser
Linda Rybová
David Novotny
Lukás Kantor
Hans-Jörg Assmann
Radim Fiala
Miroslav Táborský
Thure Riefenstein
Anna Massey

Written by:
Zdenek Sverák

R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires
acompanying parent
or adult guardian.







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