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BERLINALE 2007 Competition

I Served the King of England and the magic of cinema


I Served the King of England and the magic of cinema

Czech director Jirí Menzel (1990 Golden Bear winner for Larks on a String) has once again succeeded in bewitching the press at Berlin. I Served the King of England [+see also:
film profile
– a new adaptation of the novel by his late friend Bohumil Hrabal, whose main character, restaurant waiter Jan Díte, dreams of becoming a millionaire – is certainly an enchanting film.

It is an elderly Díte (Oldrich Kaiser) who tells us his remarkable destiny (in which irony plays a part) in the form of flashbacks. He recounts his story after his release from prison, where he served 15 years – just for having realised his dream. The backdrop of Díte’s story is Czech history, from the "gay 20s" and 30s until the years following the fall of Communism.

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The content of the story is reflected in its form: I Served the King of England is a patchwork of symmetries and recurring anecdotes (indeed, fortune operates in playful ways for our hero), wonderfully interpreted by Bulgarian actor Ivan Barnev, who plays the young Díte.

These motifs parallel the character’s capitalist dream, for they all point at the notions of plenty and of transformation of goods into wealth (and conversely), both cheerfully illustrated by the presence of flocks of dancing women, snowball fights in summertime, streams of alcohol and sperm, and floors strewn with banknotes - all this in a crossbred style of surrealism, overflowing in an energy that borrows from silent cinema à la Buster Keaton and ballet, among others.

As Menzel pointed out at the press conference, he is mocking everything and everyone, from Nazis to Communists. The actors – including German star Julia Jentsch, who Menzel met by chance in a Prague restaurant – have also spoken of the director’s strong sense of humour.

The producers – also present to reply to compliments from journalists – have confirmed that the film has sold very well. Our only wish is that audiences the world over will go and see the film.

The Czech/Slovak (AQS) production – co-produced by TV NOVA, Barrandov Studio, UPP and Magic Box Slovakia – is being sold worldwide by German outfit Bavaria Film International.

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(Translated from French)

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