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Zelary (2003)

Cast: Anna Geislerová, György Cserhalmi, Ivan Trojan, more...
Director: Ondrej Trojan
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Studio: Columbia TriStar
Genre: Drama, Foreign, Germany, Czech
Running Time: 148 min.
Subtitles: English, French
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Czech filmmaker Ondrej Trojan directs the period war drama Zelary, based on the novella Jozova Hanule by Kveta Legátová. During WWII, nurse Eliska (Anna Geislerová) is part of a secret resistance movement with her lover, surgeon Richard Littner (Ivan Trojan). When he is discovered, Eliska is forced to leave the hospital in order to hide from the Nazis. Her colleague Dr. Chladek (Jan Hrusínský) sends her off with mountain man Joza ( György Cserhalmi), who had been a patient in the hospital. Under the name Hana, Eliska travels with Joza to the tiny Moravian village of Zelary. They live in a modest cabin for two years, waiting for the Nazi occupation to end. Zelary was the Czech submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2003. ~ Andrea LeVasseur, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

The best film I've ever seen, and the only 10 by mkaliher2 November 18, 2010 - 10:00 PM PST
1 out of 2 members found this review helpful
Although I've seen thousands of films in the last 50 years, I have to say this is the best film I've ever seen. Why it was never allowed an Academy Award reveals more about the deficiencies of the Academy than the value of this film. In comparison, "The Barbarian Invasions" was a self-conscious little Canadian confection, unworthy to be included on any list with this film, much less a winner. If you haven't seen this film you haven't seen one of the best films ever made.

Sometimes great work goes unrecognized. In this case, it is more than a pity; it is a shame.

Breakout for Anna Geislerova by PandT September 13, 2005 - 9:35 PM PDT
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful
A beautiful young cosmopolitan Czech woman named Eliska is working as a nurse at a hospital after the medical school she was attending was closed due to the Nazi occupation of Prague. She and her doctor boyfriend are members of a resistance group. One of the patients at the hospital is a man from a village in the provinces who is badly injured and in need a transfusion. Eliska is the only person available with the blood type needed to save the man. A connection is made that turns into a relationship that neither person ever would have imagined. Meanwhile the resistance group that Eliska and her lover are in is discovered and her man escapes virtually overnight. The group decides to ask Josa, the man who received blood from Eliska to take her to his remote village and hide her in his house in the mountains. The rest of the film shows how Eliska changes her name to Hana and changes her life by moving in and marrying a simple, earthy but truly loving older man.

What is so affecting about this film is the way the two main characters meld their extremely different backgrounds into a new shared life. The old country town Zelary, of the film's title, is a metaphor for Josa and his humble and frankly (at least to Hana) archaic lifestyle. This epic film shows the trials of two people trying by necessity to come together under difficult and extraordinary circumstances. A mutual attraction and admiration for one and other grows into a real love for the couple. The film has a suspenseful side to it as well, as the Nazis enter into the plotline once again bringing fear and suspicion to the small town that time seemed to have left standing still.

Zelary was nominated for Best Foreign Picture. It was directed by Ondrej Trojan and stars newcomer Anna Geislerova as the radiant, resourceful and indomitable Eliska/Hana. Gyorgy Cserhalmi is the simple yet spiritual and emotionally strong Josa.

Czech History, with the Appeal of a Good Novel by talltale February 12, 2005 - 8:47 AM PST
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful
Losing out on 2003's Best Foreign Film to the glib and disappointing "Barbarian Invasion," ZELARY turns out to be quite a wonderful experience. In fact, it bears a lot in common with an earlier Best Foreign Film winner "Nowhere in Africa." Long but never boring, it gives the viewer as close to a novelistic experience as movie-going offers these days (only a very-good, multi-part cable or PBS series can do any better).

Telling the story of a group of Czech partisans working against their German captors during WWII, the film centers on a chic and somewhat flamboyant young nurse who must suddenly leave town, assume a new identity as the wife of an older, "peasant" type who lives in a small mountain community. Her slow acceptance of and into this community provides the heart of the film, and it's handled with wonderful, quiet details that build into a rich and engrossing 2-1/2 hours. Subsidiary characters are all fascinating, as well, and the performances-- from the wonderful leads down to the smallest roles--are vivid and real.

Toward the end, as chaos descends, the movie begins to splinter off instead of coalescing, as most films do. Yet this seems an appropriate picture of the madness and anarchy of wartime as seen from the vantage point of a small mountain community where, even in dire circumstance while people behave as badly or as well as they must, the natural beauty of the landscape continues to shine through.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.35)
20 Votes
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