Movie Review by EDF
Starring: Ondrej Vetchy, Krystof Hadek, Tara Fitzgerald, Oldrich Kaiser
Director: Jan Sverak
Hollywood loves a good story but when it comes to anything to do with historical fact, they seem to take liberties by re-writing history. If they had got hold of this particular story then you could bet that not only would we have lost the 50/50 mix of Czechoslovakian/English dialogue, it would have been replaced by 100% American accent. That actual thought sends shivers down my spine but luckily, what we have here is a gem of a movie.
DARK BLUE WORLD, written by Zdenek Sverak and directed by his son Jan, follows the story of two Czech pilots who flee their home country when the Nazis invade it. Frantisek Slama (Ondrej Vetchy) joins the RAF with young trainee pilot Karel Vojtisek (Krystof Hadek) in tow where their fellow countrymen soon join them. Frant is seen to be the leader of the bunch and takes to the task with ease. Their training is a series of farcical programs from the hilarious simulated air battles on bicycles to learning how to inflate a dingy and how to speak proper English by attending classes. Karel gets more restless as time passes, wanting to rid the enemy from his home country as soon as possible.
After spending long months training, they finally take to the skies. Unfortunately, on their first outing they are ambushed and lose one of their own. The men are upset by their loss but the tireless Frant does his best to look after his men through this trying war.
On a routine scouting mission Frant and Karel come across a lone German plane and they shoot it down. During the exchange Karel’s plane is damaged and crashes which leaves Frant believing his friend is dead. Luckily Karel has parachuted to safety and stumbles across a house in the countryside where he hopes to phone back to base. Susan (Tara Fitzgerald) is the occupant and once she is sure that Karel isn’t a Nazi, she allows him into her home and looks after his wound. Her husband is missing at war and Karel falls madly in love with her. Frant meets Susan and is introduced to her by Karel but unfortunately for Karel she doesn’t return his love and instead falls for Frant. Susan sends Karel a letter asking him not to see her again.
A while later, Karel flies over Susan’s house and spots Frant’s car parked outside which incenses him. With the tension growing between Karel and Frant, it finally comes to a head when Frant accuses Karel of shooting at him during an air battle. Later on film evidence shows that Karel was shooting at a German plane and had in fact saved Frant’s life. Frant apologises to Karel in front of his men but Karel does not acknowledge him. How can two people defeat a common enemy when they are at war with themselves?
DARK BLUE WORLD also jumps back and forth from World War II to 1950 where we find Frant in a Russian occupied Czech prison. He is deemed to be a threat to the State for allowing his mind to be poisoned by Western ideals from his time spent in England.
While the more recent World War II movies have been star-studded affairs, two of the star names here appear only as supporting characters. You can feel a sense of true friendship between the two leads Vetchy and Hadek that draws you in through their highs and lows. Using a mixture of computer graphics, blue screen and out-takes from the 1969 movie THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN, the air battles are as gripping and realistic as anything you are likely to see while keeping both feet on the ground. It would be hard to find a better European co-production this year.