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March 15, 1939: Germany invades Czechoslovakia. Czech and Slovak pilots flee to England, joining the RAF. After the war, back home, they are put in labor camps, suspected of anti-Communist ideas. This film cuts between a post-war camp where Franta is a prisoner and England during the war, where Franta is like a big brother to Karel, a very young pilot. On maneuvers, Karel crash lands by the rural home of Susan, an English woman whose husband is MIA. She spends one night with Karel, and he thinks he's found the love of his life. It's complicated by Susan's attraction to Franta. How will the three handle innocence, Eros, friendship, and the heat of battle? When war ends, what then? Written by
This is a brilliant, lavish Czech film from the Sverak father and son team, all about two Czech pilots who flee to England to help the RAF in the Battle of Britain but who also fall out over a woman (the beautiful Tara Fitzgerald). Features some excellent and incredibly realistic aerial combat scenes probably the best ever and much better than Pearl Harbour or even the film Battle of Britain - and a number of interesting general themes such as love, war, romance, comradeship, loss and servitude. Also, the trials and tribulations of moving abroad and learning a foreign language (though made easier here with the great stalwart Anna Massey).
The film has some great little motifs such as the world famous RAF bullseye device, shown throughout and at one point nicely reflected in the black vinyl record, spinning around cutely (music is another theme of the film, of course). Plus, all of the traditional icons of English life: dimpled beer glasses (unlike the post-war straight glasses used in Pearl Harbour), tea in a nice china tea set in an English country garden (though shot in the Czech Republic?), the mascot dog, a vintage bottle of HP sauce, even a darts board!
Of course, the airfield and surrounding countryside is ridiculously unlike anywhere in the south of England, though the virtuouso aerial sequences make up for this, showing Eastbourne and the Seven Sisters, always synonomous with southern England and the Battle of Britain. But best of all is the sensational musical score from Ondrej Soukup, as good as anything from Hans Zimmer yet all in the tradition of the late, excellent Ron Goodwin who scored the original Battle of Britain film amongst other classic English war films. There's even a nice little cameo role for the apparently famous Czech musician and actor (and Kevin Kline lookalike) Oldrich Kaiser, who plays on the piano the title theme song, Dark Blue Sky. Excellent!
It's got a few smutty yet funny little Freudian devices too, such as always showing an inflated condom floating by the ceiling whenever Karel (the callow but brilliant Krystof Hadek) is stuck at the airfield while his love rival and fellow pilot Frantisek (Ondrej Vetchy) is with Susan.
Another great English actor in this film! Charles Dance is of course fine as Wing Commander Bentley.
Highly recommended and well worth watching/hiring get the DVD with special features (stuff like how they created the dog fights and stuff). Probably the only film ever to combine subtitles with characters speaking English, German, French and Czech all at once.
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