Sunday, February 14, 2010

Review: Oscar Nominee "Zelary" is Simply a Wonderful Film

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 18 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Zelary (2003)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Czech Republic/Slovakia/Austria; Languages: Czech/Russian/German
Running time: 148 minutes (2 hours, 28 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence and some sexual content
DIRECTOR: Ondrej Trojan
WRITER: Petr Jarchovský (from the novel by Jozova Hanule)
PRODUCERS: Helena Uldrichová and Ondrej Trojan
EDITOR: Vladimír Barák
Academy Award nominee

DRAMA/ROMANCE with some elements of war

Starring: Anna Geislerová, György Cserhalmi, Jaroslava Adamová, Miroslav Donutil, Jaroslav Dusek, Iva Bittová, Ivan Trojan, Jan Hrusíinský, Anna Vertelárová, and Tomás Zatecka

Zelary earned a 2004 Academy Award nomination for “Best Foreign Language Film” (as the official entry from the Czech Republic). The film tells the story of a clash between two different worlds, and it also tells the story of the odd pairing of two different people who fall in love because of the circumstances forced upon them. It begins in Czechoslovakia 1943. Eliska (Anna Geislerová) is a nurse in a city hospital, and she and her surgeon lover are part of the Czechoslovakian resistance movement against the Nazis. The arrest of a fellow fighter exposes their identities to the Gestapo, and her lover flees the country leaving Eliska to find her own way to safety.

The day before that disaster, she’d donated her blood to save the life of a mountain dweller injured in a mill accident. Members of the resistance send her with the mountain dweller, a man named Joza (György Cserhalmi), back to his home in the remote mountains, Zelary, a place where time seems to have frozen 150 years earlier. The only way to hide in safety is to become Joza’s wife, a move Eliska bitterly resists, but one to which she must ultimately submit. She takes a new name, Hana. A strong bond and eventual love forms between the simple peasant villager and the city sophisticate, but always looming over their heads is that if discovered, the Germans will kill Joza and perhaps his fellow villagers for hiding Hana, a former member of the resistance.

Zelary may seem especially familiar, and that’s because its observations and depiction of rural live aren’t original. In fact, Zelary has that lived-in feel. We might not see something like this very often at the local theatre, but rustic utopias are a staple of cable television networks such as the Hallmark Channel or even TV Land. Still, it is the execution of the film that makes this few of simple peasant life unrelentingly engrossing and powerful cinema. In spite of the danger that the characters face, either from fellow villagers or outsiders such as German soldiers and partisan fighters, this is a heartwarming film. Star-crossed lovers from different worlds, a remote mountain cottage, and a pastoral setting – add that to a gripping, evocative, and emotionally charged score by Petr Ostrouchov and cinematography that transforms the seasonal colors of the Czech countryside into glorious eye-candy and Zelary is an epic romance. However, it is the surprises that come around every corner and the gentle shockers around the edges that make Zelary a refreshing perspective, although the plot, setting, and characters have that instant familiarity.

Director Ondrej Trojan turns the recognizable into something special; like a playful ringmaster, he correctly measures the right ingredients for a film that is a heart-warming romance and tragic war drama. The film does tend to bounce back and forth between too many characters, and because all of them are good, I found myself wanting more time with each. This is especially true of the leads; there is not enough of their story. Anna Geislerová and György Cserhalmi sell this unlikely romance. Geislerová is a radiant beauty with the kind of evocative face the serious actress must have. György Cserhalmi is pitch perfect as the rough-hewn, salt-of-the-earth Joza. While a beauty like Geislerová is expected in such a movie, György Cserhalmi is the one who makes the romantic inside the viewer desperately want to believe Hana and Joza’s love could really happen. Zelary speaks directly to the heart.

9 of 10

2004 Academy Awards: 1 nomination for “Best Foreign Language Film” (Czech Republic)

2004 Czech Lions: 2 wins for actress (Anna Geislerová) and sound; 9 nominations including film, director, actor (György Cserhalmi), supporting actress (Jaroslava Adamová), art direction, cinematography, editing, music, and screenplay

Thursday, January 26, 2006



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