To this day, Director Jirí Menzel is most known for his film, "CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS," that won an Oscar for best foreign film over 40 years ago, and his latest, "I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND" does nothing to change that. One wonders what compelled Menzel to want to make this film. Sure, it's based on material from the same writer as the Oscar winner, but there's not anything fresh about the story, or the way it's been told.
When Jan Dite is released from jail in the '60s, he's directed to rebuild a cottage near the border of Czechoslovakia and Germany. While on this assignment, memories cause him to tell the story of his youth, leading up to and during the Nazi occupation. From the beginning, Menzel showcases his intent at telling the story in a light, almost whimsical way, with colorful, stylized imagery and attempts at humor. Unfortunately, as much as the director tries to evoke comparisons to the comedic silent movie masterpieces of Chaplin, he misses an important point, ...the "tramp" and other creations were all sympathetic characters. Dite is never sympathetic or even remotely endearing. One can suppose from the recollections in narration of the Dite character, "I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND" is some sort of indictment on Capitalism or those seeking fame and fortune at all costs, but there's nothing in the narrative, giving it a real social political aspect. Instead, it seems to embrace this character's excitement and ambitions for beautiful women and the good life, never seeming to judge Dite's continued love affair with a girl who loves Hitler!
There are some interesting moments, sporadically showing up, and "I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND" is never really dull. But, it's just a real shame that a film from a gifted director doesn't offer anything too memorable about it, or raising it above an average, "non-special" film. There are far too many of those already out there!
SONY has provided the correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio for this 16:9 enhanced dvd. Colors are generally solid and even vibrant, for the most part. However, detail varies greatly from scene-to-scene, sometimes suffering from a pervading softness. Contrast is decent, and darker scenes offer relatively decent depth, for standard resolution. Fleshtones appear natural throughout.
SONY has provided a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. While not aggressive, surrounds and discrete effects enhance the drama to various scenes with varying degrees of subtle and dramatic impact. It's well balanced throughout.
Numerous trailers, along with the theatrical trailer for the title film, are included.