Zelary (2003) Poster

(2003)

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8/10
Speaks directly to the heart
howard.schumann21 February 2005
A deep and lasting love does not always fit our pictures and indeed can arise from the most unlikely circumstances. In Zelary, a Czech film by Ondrej Trojan, an abiding romance between a rugged sawmill worker and a sophisticated medical student emerges from the conflict in Czechoslovakia during World War II. Based on the autobiographical novel Jozova Hanule by Kveta Legatova, Zelary is about a young medical student who is forced to live in a remote mountain village in order to escape the Gestapo. It is a film that poignantly depicts the upheaval of war and how people had to call upon their hidden resources simply to survive.

Set in May 1943 when the Germans, under the guise of a protectorate, occupied Bohemia and Moravia, Aliska (Ana Geislerova), a student in Prague, works as a nurse in a provincial hospital after the Nazis close the universities. As the film opens, she is having an affair with Richard (Ivan Trojan), a successful surgeon. Both are members of the Czech resistance movement along with their superior at the hospital. When a planned underground operation fails, Richard is forced to emigrate and Eliska is given a new identity and safe passage to live out the war in the mountain village of Zelary with Joza (Gyorgy Cserhalmi), a patient at the hospital whose life was saved by Eliska's blood donation.

It is clear from the outset that her adjustment to rural life will take time. Upon reaching the cottage after a long journey, she asks, "Where's the yard?" "Everywhere", he replies, She has a hard time living in an area without electricity or plumbing and goats running freely but, given the alternative, she doesn't complain. Eliska, now known as Hana, is met with suspicion by the residents of Zelary who wonder where Joza found her, but she is eventually accepted when she agrees to a marriage of convenience with Joza and begins to integrate herself into the life of the community. At a length of 150 minutes, the film becomes an epic of Hana's gradual adjustment to rural life while living in daily fear of her discovery by the Gestapo. At first, she is reluctant to let Joza touch her but he gradually wins her trust with his gentle manner and she comes to rely on him as her means of protection. In one touching scene, he gently bathes Hana after finding her bruised and drenched in a violent rainstorm.

While Zelary has its tender moments, it is not an idyllic romp through the Czech countryside. The village has its share of drunkenness, abusive husbands, and violent confrontations between parents and children and Hana has to learn to deal with them. In one subplot, the schoolteacher Tkac (Jaroslav Dusak), a strict disciplinarian, constantly berates a young boy named Lipka (Tomas Zatecka) who has problems at home. Lipka leaves the school and is forced to hide in a cave to escape his abusive stepfather (Ondrej Koval), aided only by his friend, Helenka (Anna Vertelarova), a five-year-old girl. As the war refuses to go away, both Hana and Joza have to deal with fear and sudden death, and they both become increasingly resourceful and self-reliant. Hana forms a strong bond with the local midwife, Lucka (Jaraslov Adamova) who teaches her about herbal remedies and allows her to help with the medical needs of the community, exacerbated by the sudden presence of voracious Russian troops.

Zelary does not break any new ground and some of the minor characters are one-dimensional, yet the film reaches us on an emotional level because of its sincerity and disdain for sentimentality. Nominated at the 2003 Oscars for Best Foreign-Language Film, the film is greatly enhanced by the compelling performances of both Geislerova and Cserhalmi, a Hungarian-born actor who exudes both physical and emotional strength. Though I would have liked to learn more about Aliska before and after the war and how her experiences had changed her, Zelary succeeds by transcending limitations of time and place and speaking directly to the human heart.
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8/10
The war bride
jotix10023 October 2004
This magnificent film arrives way too late after it was nominated for the best foreign movie of 2003! Important European movies don't have the great market they should have in America, even though, this picture is better than some of the local fare. Director Ondrej Trojan must be congratulated for what he has done with this movie.

The story begins in 1943, at the time where Europe was going through one of the worst moments of WWII. The Germans are everywhere and the Gestapo is the instrument to eliminate the people that are working in the resistance. When the young medical student and nurse, Eliska, is found to be in danger, she is send to the country with one of the patients she has been taking care at the hospital. Thus begins the saga of a woman who must hide, or face jail, or probably death.

The movie then changes to a pastoral setting when Joza, the peasant who has been kind enough to take Eliska to his farm, agrees to marry her in conspiracy with the local priest and the school teacher. That part of the country is catholic and backward. There is a hypocrisy in the way this teacher and priest keep a closed eye about what the local peasantry are doing. On the one hand, the peasants appear to be God loving citizens, but they live lives dominated by alcohol, rape, incest, and other evil practices. No one questions anything.

Joza enters in the marriage out of gratitude toward the nurse that helped him heal his wounds. Then, steadily, he falls in love with a woman who is completely different from him. In turn, Hana, as she is now named, starts seeing in Joza qualities she has taken for granted. Their love is genuine.

The two principals, Anne Geislerova and Gyorgi Cserhalmi are wonderful in that make us believe they are these two people that get to know and love one another under the worst possible circumstances.

The countryside where the film was filmed is so beautiful that it makes one wonder how could war have been waged in such surroundings. The magnificent cinematography of the picture takes us back to those sad years of the war, and what that country endured as a Soviet satellite nation.
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10/10
Everything "Cold Mountain" wanted to be but much better.
blehman-220 January 2004
Following similar themes as "Cold Mountain" this official Oscar submission from the Czech Republic is a masterful war time drama with a great heart. Heart-breaking and warm, it carries those themes to a much richer conclusion than "Cold Mountain" was able to. if this film is not one of the Foreign Language film nominees then something is clearly amiss. See it!
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10/10
Great movie
kerryj-17 April 2005
For those who are fans of foreign films, this is a must. The scenery alone is enough reason to watch this movie. This was cast very well. The two main characters were outstanding as well as the children actors. The little girl reminds me of Natalie Wood when she was in Miracle on 34th street. The journey of the film takes one through every emotion in the book. Though it is slower paced, it allows one to reflect and bond with the characters. It's not a relaxing film as there is this underlying tension caused by the uncertainty of a country torn by war. Overall, an excellent film. Bravo to the director and all the crew! Outstanding job. I look forward to many more great films out of Czechoslovakia.

Kerry Johnson
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10/10
Realistic, powerful tale of love, transformation and loss.
Redhawk200413 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Hands down this is one of the top ten best movies I have ever seen. It succeeds on every level, with excellent cinematography, scenery, story, acting and even music. The acting is especially superb, with the characters and their interactions always seeming real and unforced. Even the child actors are utterly convincing, and the little girl in particular brings a sense of wide-eyed innocence and charm to her role.

****POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOLLOW******

The story is about a young medical student named Eliska, who is a member of the Czech resistance during WWII. When the Gestapo captures one of her comrades, she is forced to abandon her old life and flee to the mountains with Joza, a man whose life she saved by giving him a blood transfusion. As part of her new identity, she must enter into a sham marriage with Joza, in order to be accepted by her new, highly religious community and to avoid being arrested or sent to Germany as a laborer. The story revolves around her adaptation to life in this beautiful mountain village where people live much as they did 150 years ago, and her growing attachment and commitment to Joza and the people around her.

The romance between Eliska and Joza proceeds in a believable, if inevitable, way, making an improbable pairing seem perfectly natural. Nevertheless there is nothing Hollywood about this romance or this movie, and that is a great strength. It aims for realism in depicting not only the bucolic beauty of village life, but also its dark underbelly, with some of the nastier villagers raping, assaulting and informing on others, while everyone drinks heavily.

For anyone who has ever suffered major life changes after a sudden reversal of fortune or a tragedy, and has had to pick up the pieces and start again, you will likely identify with Eliska and find the whole premise of the movie to be convincing; it just feels right, somehow.

I have seen this movie three times, and it gets better with every viewing, even knowing what is going to happen. It is a pity that Hollywood just can't seem to produce a movie that has this kind of depth and emotional resonance.
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10/10
Wonderful movie
aad30129 March 2005
An excellent movie with a beautiful, complex setting. I would call it a classic tragedy, though the only possible flaw of the tragic hero Joza is his selflessness in helping others. It is great to see a movie involving WWII that is not just a war movie and is from a fresh perspective, rather than from one of the major players in the War. The scenery is beautifully natural and the characters will move you to sympathize with them. While it does not have a picture-perfect happy ending, I was encouraged by the redemption and heroism of the young boy Lipka. There are several miscommunications and accidents throughout the movie that support its realism. I will definitely read the novel Jozova Hanule now, on which the movie is based.
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It lacks nothing
futures-14 September 2007
Set in Eastern Europe during the Nazi occupation, this is the story of a young, urbane, freedom fighter woman who faces discovery and capture every day in the big city. When the heat gets too high, her leaders suddenly send her away, to lessen the risk on her and everyone else. She just as suddenly finds herself with people she does not know, understand, or even like – who make decisions for her in an isolated, "backward" mountain village. How could life get any worse? What is her reason for living any longer? Well, she will see… she will see... one hard day at a time. This is a quietly powerful film, full of natural grandeur, human pettiness, the ebb and flow of pain and pleasure, forgiveness and revenge, taking and giving, and faith and hopelessness. "Zelary" is epic in scope, and full of Life's lessons. It lacks nothing.
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10/10
A splendid tale of intrigue, love, denial and surrender.
bigdgun20 December 2004
This is one of the great movies of my lifetime! Passionate directing; a superb cast; a brilliant script and gorgeous scenery leave an indelible memory of my Zelary experience. Those who love Hitchcock will appreciate the suspense and intrigue. Those who love chick flicks will endear to the passion and feelings elicited. But Zelary is not a "chick flick" in the true sense. It's a heart-wrenching story of lovers separated and who go on with their lives to survive. It's the life you make when you have little choices. It's about making the best of that life. And it's about the memories generated over a lifetime. A movie to be enjoyed by all ages and especially by true movie lovers.
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10/10
Even better for the second time
pivko23 November 2003
When I originally wrote this comment, I predicted Zelary are on their way to Oscar for the best foreign motion picture of 2003. As we now know, this prediction was wrong. Nothwithstanding that, I have to say that when I saw this movie for the second time on Czech TV on 1 January 2006 I have absolutely no reason to change a word in my below comment. Perhaps the strongest 10/10s I have ever given.

I may be a little bit biased observer, since I am Czech local, but there are many great Czech films. The problem is that a vast majority of them are not understandable to international audience because they deal with specific Czech matters and the storytelling is primarily aimed at Czech audience. Then they are few that avoid this trap and may be interesting and appealing to movie viewers across the globe. Zelary definitely pertain to the latter group.

It happened by coincidence that I have seen two great movies somehow connected with World War II in a very short time. First was the Pianist a brilliant work of Roman Polanski, second is Zelary. Although may not seem so at first sight these two movies have a lot in common. The similarity lies in the basis of the story and in the way the story is told. Both these movies successfully try to portray awful times of World War II through a human destiny. They tell a story about human whose life was broke into pieces by war. Pianist Szpilman must have been hiding for several years, the main character of Zelary, Hana, must disappear from the city and attention of Gestapo to rural mountain forgotten area. Both survive, Hana in addition finds a new life.

But enough of comparisons, Zelary are also distinguished for wonderful cinematography, perfect music and excellent acting of the recent top-class Czech and Hungarian actors. If this movie ever comes near you either to the movie theater or on DVD or video, it is definitely worth while. 10/10
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8/10
An urban sophisticate in rural Czechosloakia
Red-1253 July 2006
Zelary (2003), directed by Ondrej Trojan, is an variation on the theme of a person thrown into an environment for which he or she is not prepared. In this case, the protagonist Eliska (Anna Geislerová) is a beautiful, sophisticated nurse in Prague during the German occupation. Forced to escape from Prague, Eliska finds herself in a remote Czech farming village.

In this setting, her urban knowledge and social skills are inadequate for survival. Predictably, her basic intelligence and her nursing experience do, indeed prove useful. However, without help from the people in the community, she can't possibly survive. Whether her abilities--and the assistance of the villagers--will prove adequate to ensure survival is the question around which the plot revolves.

The weakness of the film is that Eliska's transition into her role as the wife of a farmer is far from adequate. Anna Geislerová is so refined and elegant that it would have taken more than two long braids to fool the Germans (or anyone else).

Still, the concept is interesting, and the film does well in conveying the complexities and difficulties that confront a stranger in an apparently tranquil rural community.
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9/10
A beautifully made film, slightly marred by the beginning and end
iangb_20009 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Zelary tells a powerful story and the film has been wonderfully made - the photography in particular is outstanding, capturing the beauty and harshness of the mountain village location. The soundtrack is excellent too, as is most of the acting.

One flaw is that the first 15 mins can give a false impression of what follows - the long central part of the film is a slow and moving depiction of village life and Eliska's coming to terms with her predicament. It's really a relationship movie - this isn't obvious from the opening, which might suggest it's going to be a traditional wartime resistance suspense type of film. So when the pace of the movie slows it's easy to start wondering why nothing much is happening! (I found a second viewing much more rewarding, once I knew what the film wasn't).

** spoiler (the ending in general terms, no specific details) ahead ** Similarly the ending - when the pace quickens again; Eliska's situation achieves closure, with few unanswered questions. I believe the story is based on true events, and also that the author of the original book has good reasons for the political message about the events of 1945 and (by implication) what came after, which doubtless still appeals to the home audience. Still, it's a sad one. Well, I guess the most powerful stories aren't often the happy ones, and Hollywood churns out enough 'happily ever after' endings to keep most of us happy.

Zelary is a tremendous achievement and really deserves to have won that Oscar. The Director and some of the team worked on "Divided we Fall" - another excellent Czech WWII film, highly recommended to anyone who enjoyed Zelary (although it's a very different type of film, the production values and impact are equally high).
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9/10
The Zeal Of Zelary
happipuppi1313 November 2010
Zelary is yet,another good find at the library for me. I hadn't heard of this film and I was sort of taken in by the unusual title. I watched it over 2 nights because I started the first 1/2 of the film kind of late. Otheriwse,I'd have sat straight through it.

While it's true that there are elements in the film that have been used in other World War 2 dramas,that's a very small thing compared to the grandeur of the movie.

It's (as mentioned in the DVD extra's) a love story. Two people get married to protect her from the Nazi's,who would have her executed for working against them. Sort of a marriage of convenience. What starts as something she's not looking forward too,blossoms into love between the two. Despite him being almost 30 years older.

We see little of the German threat here but we know it exists,along with the threat of a young man wanting his way with her or he'll turn her in.

The movie is more about how she truly becomes as one of the of the small village. The villagers are not 2 dimensional as someone mentioned,they are exactly as people were back then in the 1940s and farther back as well. The scenery is breathtaking and real which helps make it look as it did in that era as well.

I feel all the actors did a fine job for a film that took 1 year and 2 months to complete. That long because they wanted authentic time and aging to happen,for a better sense of realism.

It's nothing ground breaking but it was a very fine film to watch and become fully engrossed in.

9 stars,purely for being a good movie,with good drama and heart,as well as entertainment value. (END}
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8/10
The strength of the movie lies in its protagonist
moreofisscience12 December 2005
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I thought it was not only well-written but quite visually interesting. I found the character of Hana particularly endearing. In fact, I wrote about her in an essay I'm doing on the idea of 'home' in literature and some film: Zelary was mentioned before as having thematic elements involving a physical home. However, this film takes a slightly different approach to the aspects of home. Whereas one normally would define home for his or herself, then make some sort of journey to find it; Hana is forced to do things oppositely in Zelary. Because turmoil physically forces her out of the place she had come to call home, she must redefine home for herself in order to make her current setting her new home. She succeeds in this through accepting the rural lifestyle and falling in love with her new husband, and she even manages to go back to her old home once again. This reversal of the task of defining home is what creates the central conflict in the film, and Hana's flexibility in making home a solid place is what makes her a strong protagonist.
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9/10
ZELARY revives CASABLANCA as a Czech tribute to its "greatest generation"
andrew-124131 January 2006
ZELARY (2003) is a small gem of a film that can stand up beside the great Czech classics of the 1960's – FIREMAN'S BALL and CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS. Using what is perhaps the Czech national literary character trait of understatement, director Ondrej Trojan crafts a richly detailed story about one woman's struggle to survive in a remote village during the WWII anti-Nazi resistance. Her small and compelling story stands on its own, but also subtly telegraphs the major themes of recent Czech history to those who can still read the coded language that East European artists from Kafka onward have trademarked.

Viewers familiar with the twentieth-century Czech struggle as an emerging nation dominated by successive empires – Austro-Hungarian, Nazi and Soviet – will detect the larger themes that Trojan evokes in a narrative centered around the Czech anti-Nazi resistance: the threat of collective punishment, the ever-present dangers of betrayal, petty revenge and arbitrary violence in a values-corrupting totalitarian system, and the crushing of religion under communism. The iconic Czech resistance story – the assassination of Hitler's East European viceroy, Heydrich, by British-trained Czech commandos and the Nazi's retaliatory obliteration of the town of Lidice and all its inhabitants – is never directly mentioned but hovers just outside the frame, as does the brutality of post-war Soviet domination after 1948.

Yet the magic of the film is that it does not labor under over-worked historical references but instead tells a finely acted and beautifully shot story about both good and bad-hearted villagers trying to make the best of life – in the inimitably Czech tradition of the Good Soldier Shveik – despite the absurd and arbitrary twists of fate created by war and evil empires. Trojan manages to craft an uplifting story about love and loss, resilience and sacrifice, that pays tribute to his "greatest generation," even though for the Czechs the WWII "liberation" from the Nazis meant another forty years of Soviet domination behind the Iron Curtain. Even the slightly awkward ending points hopefully toward the brighter future that Czech's rallied for during their 1960's "Prague Spring." What is perhaps most remarkable about ZELARY from a film-making point of view, is that fifteen years after the "Velvet Revolution" freed Czechs (and Slovaks) from the Soviet empire, it still speaks in the understated ironies and coded references that would have been needed to escape the censor's exacto-knife. Perhaps Trojan is now acutely aware, as an artist working in the free-market economy, that the details of his small country's history don't amount to a hill of beans in the world film market, but can still be subtly embedded for deciphering by his compatriots. Instead, he has constructed a finely crafted love triangle for a global audience that slyly reshuffles the CASABLANCA deck and casts Bogie as a semi-literate woodsman, while Ingrid Bergman's Ilsa is played by the nearly-as-luminous Ana Geislerova. In doing so, he preserves the best of the Samizdat underground literary tradition for film-making in the new global economy.
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8/10
Very satisfying and well directed 8 out of 10
filmbay22 July 2008
As long as there are wars and womenfolk to revere, the feisty spirit of Scarlett O'Hara will never die. The story of a privileged beauty who is transformed by war and sacrifice into a paragon of resilience keeps popping up in film: Catherine Deneuve in Indochine (1992), Sandrine Bonnaire in East-West (1999), Nicole Kidman in last year's Cold Mountain.

Zelary is the Czech version, an old-fashioned character-driven domestic epic which was adapted from an novel by Kveta Legatova. Set in the Second World War against the background of the German occupation, the film was selected as the Czech Republic's Oscar nomination last year. A return to directing for Ondrej Trojan (Let's All Sing Around) after more than a decade as a producer, Zelary is a trite but sturdy offering, a showcase for popular young Czech actress Anna Geislerova, as well as the beautiful Moravian countryside, shot in glowing earthy tones.

Geislerova plays Eliska, a medical student who has been denied a chance to finish her degree because of the German occupation. She works as a nurse, but is also involved in the resistance movement with her lover, a surgeon named Richard (Ivan Trojan). One night a sawmill worker, Joseph (Hungarian actor Gyorgy Cserhalmi), from a rural community is brought into the hospital badly injured. Eliska provides the blood he needs for a transfusion. Shortly after, the Gestapo uncovers the resistance group that Eliska belongs to and she is forced to escape. Joseph, or Jova for short, agrees to take her back to his rural village of Zelary.

Initially the conditions, a dirt floor and no running water, shock her but she has no choice but to stay. She takes on an assumed identity, as Hana, and goes through a marriage ceremony to avoid suspicion from the local villagers.

Hana becomes acclimatized to her new housewifely life surprisingly quickly as she discovers, as women so often do in romance novels, that a hulking, taciturn man can meet nearly all her needs. Jova proves himself both a font of compassion and pillar of strength, providing Hana with a wooden floor and defending her from a rapist before they eventually become lovers.

While Hana bonds with her woodcutter, the script provides some welcome additional village texture. There's that Czech cinema staple, the precocious child (Anna Vertelarova) and her pragmatic widowed mother, as well as a bureaucratic school principal and his friend, a compassionate priest. There's also an ancient midwife (Jaroslava Adamova) who teaches Hana folk medicine. The most trenchant subplot concerns the local drunk who beats his wife and son: Their imprisonment serves as a contrast to the caring imprisonment that Hana faces.

The German army, lurking in the nearby hills, pops up periodically to add a jolt of suspense. Unfortunately, Zelary doesn't end with the war.

Soon the ruthless Germans are replaced by the loutish, drunken, raping soldiers of the Soviet army and Zelary is in for a whole new round of problems. By this point -- well past the two-hour mark -- the endlessly episodic nature of Eliska/Hana's trials begins to provoke fatigue more than sympathy. "Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart," wrote the poet William Butler Yeats. And too much history can make any long-suffering heroine overstay her welcome. Benjamin Miller, Filmbay Editor.
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10/10
The rythm of seasons and the tie of blood...
vprice18 February 2004
Great movie! Blood is the leitmotif and is used as allegory for tradition: Those in the movie who give blood willingly, added to the fabric of the people, those who try to take blood are always defeated by the "givers". The final scene where the old lady answers "I'm not quite sure" when and expression of surprise about her still being alive is a final plea to not give up on tradition - and the blood that has gone into creating it. All of this is frames within the rythm of the seasons. A movie that shows what we have lost in the city. Beautifully filmed and all of the characters are so well defined - Iva Bittová is wonderful, the soul!
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10/10
Vivid and Beautiful
rbowles-212 June 2006
I once asked a film critic friend of mine how he decided a movie would receive his highest rating. He told me that when a movie is beyond criticism, it is worthy of the highest honor. I feel this way about "Zelary". I saw it in the theater when it first came out and saw it again recently on video. The single element that is most striking about this movie is the cinematography which is vivid and beautiful and kept taking my breath away. And quite honestly, those panoramic shots of Zelary and the surrounding mountains reminded me of where I grew up. There are three performances that are perfect. Anna Geislerova as Eliska/Hana won a couple of international acting awards for this performance and totally deserved them. Her nuanced and subtle transformation from reluctant and slightly belligerent 'refugee' to a loving and sensitive wife was a fine example of measured, well-thought out acting. Gyorgy Cserhalmi as Joza is equally as fine and Jaroslava Adamova as Lucka is one of those characters we can't wait to see again. Highly recommended for beautiful cinematography, fine acting and a great example of cinematic storytelling.
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10/10
Moving story with well developed characters
yonjan27 February 2005
This execellent movie contains both a very large story and many small vignettes providing context for each other. The large story is the Czech resistance to the Nazis and the consequences of being associated with them.

The well developed and lesser developed characters exhibit such a wide range of the human goodness and evil. This movie will pull you in quickly and lead you thru our best and worst sides. The hapless and the resourceful weave in and out of a rich tapestry.

Much of the movie is set in a small town with its curses and blessings. This provides a rich context for the many strong characters to thrive. Many gratifying relationships develop.

The is a strong undercurrent of the randomness of war. Stupid mistakes and petty actions that have tragic consequences.

The DVD has a fun extra of the start and crew's visit to Hollywood in hopes of the best foreign film Oscar of 2003.
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7/10
Too nice to not like.
=G=11 February 2005
"Zelary" follows Eliska, a beautiful, young Czech woman through the course of her life during WWII as she is torn from her nursing work and antifascist movement support in the city to be secreted in a rustic mountain community where she finds herself having to cope with the tribulations of a hard rural life, a husband required to legitimize her presence as a cover, and the throes of a war which spills over onto the mountain villagers from both fronts. This slow moving 2:20 hour film pans the gamut of rural life in war torn Czechoslovakia as it looks wistfully at the bucolic beauty and plaintively at the juxtaposed evils of war showing us life, death, love, birth, hardship, evil, and more. An Oscar nominated Czech film with easy subtitles, "Zelary" is sometimes tedious, sometimes riveting, and always full of heart. Should be a pleasant watch for more mature audiences into the foreign film fringe. (B)
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8/10
Beatuiful but not too sugary
alhaapan4 October 2007
I liked the Zelary, at first, because of the story wasn't at all foreseeable. I have never seen this kind of love story, for example. The actors played with a great panache, nothing was emphasized too much. The topics were hard, but the film was beautiful, not to being too sweet for that – as many of films of this kind unfortunately happened to be, and which is very irritating. And at last, wasn't that little girl admirable! As a big fan of Czech culture (literature, music, the theatre, films etc.) I was keen to see even this film. Czech (or Czechoslovakian, or Slovakian) films have never caused me disappointments, and neither did Zelary. Unfortunately I had to see the film on TV, but no worry, the story, photographing, directing, colors, landscapes, staging – well everything –, were on the highest level which made the watching of film the most enjoyable, even if just on TV. Zelary is piece of art.

Still in my opinion the music composed for Zelary was very poor, except for (folk?) songs the village's women were singing couple of times during the film. These songs was great music and made me huge affections.
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6/10
Poignant film doesn't succeed on all levels
rosscinema2 November 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I had the feeling that the director of this film wanted to tell the story on some larger scale to try and attain some sort of epic level but the best moments come when the two lead actors simply establish a loving relationship. Story takes place in the early 1940's where we see Eliska (Anna Geislerova) who's a medical student in Prague and one of her patients is Joza (Gyorgy Cserhalmi) who's a simple older man from a small Czech village called Zelary. Eliska helps some of the doctors in the resistance against the Germans but she learns that the Gestapo has caught most of them and now want her so she must now leave and hide someplace.

*****SPOILER ALERT*****

Eliska is sent to live with Joza and she assumes the identity of Hana but once she arrives in Zelary she finds it difficult to assimilate with a much more simple life. Eliska/Hana is a city girl and doesn't know how to fit in and many of the locals figure out that she's not there because of her fondness for Joza but that she must be in trouble. She agrees to marry Joza to make things right and keep everything quiet but like the others in the village she gets caught in the middle of domestic disputes involving drunken husbands abusing their wives and at one point she herself is almost raped. But even during all that she and Joza do establish a loving relationship and she develops a strong presence in the area and eventually earning respect by everyone. But the irony comes from the fact that with the thought that the Germans could walk in at any moment looming over them it's the Russian soldiers as Liberators that become the real threat.

This film is directed by Ondrej Trojan who is making his second film and he shows good skill in showing the everyday life in this small area from character development to making sure the audience gets a good understanding of all the locales. As the film unfolds the audience along with Eliska becomes acquainted with the people she meets and the area itself and when the film ends we pretty much know every corner of that village. The performances of the two leads are the main reason I'm recommending this film and Geislerova shows the same strength and screen presence of Juliane Kohler. In his mostly quiet and simple manner Cserhalmi gives you the feeling that he's a much more compelling figure than he lets on and together these two have real screen chemistry that for the most part make the film work. But this film seems to want to reach out and become more than what it should be and the script gives us countless scenarios of drunken abuse towards woman and attempted rape and when we see what develops with the Russian soldiers I almost started to roll my eyes. The film works when it deals with much more simpler matters and it is an intriguing story to watch despite the fact that the script gives the audience to many unnecessary sidetrips.
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9/10
A few items from the DVD
dumarest-38 May 2005
The DVD contained an addition about making of the movie. A few items of interest - the main characters were of different language groups and could not in fact communicate as the film was made - the woman Czech I think, the man Hungarian. The film took aver a year to film, so that the change of seasons could be shown and so that the young characters, so important to the film in general, could believably age. The actors ranged in age from 6 days - the birth scene - to 92 - the old woman in the early scene when the Resistance drop failed I think.

My wife's comment that it reminded her of Cold Mountain rings true, as others have noted.
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10/10
the Czech Republic has made some outstanding movies, including this one
lee_eisenberg19 July 2017
Ondřej Trojan's Academy Award-nominated "Želary" focuses on Eliška, a nurse in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia (called the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia). After the Nazis learn of her role in the resistance, Eliška has to flee to the countryside with a man to whom she donated blood. They hide out in a village timelocked in the 1800s. Eliška has to stay there for the duration of the war, and certain events in the village will have an effect on her for the rest of her life.

The movie makes perfectly clear what a hard life it was for the people living under occupation. It couldn't have been easy in a rural setting either. But whatever the case, it's a fine movie. The main credit should go to Anna Geislerová (who won a well deserved Czech Lion) as Eliška, but the rest of the cast does well also. I've never seen a Czech movie that I disliked. In addition to this one, I recommend Trojan's "Divided We Fall", which also focuses on the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia.

Pravda vítězí!
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6/10
Good-Looking but Dreary
kenjha29 December 2010
During Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, a nurse who is part of the resistance movement flees to the countryside to avoid persecution. There are good performances from Geislerova as the nurse and Cserhalmi as the uneducated fellow she marries to help change her identity. As long as the movie is focusing on their relationship, it works fine. However, the script is all over the place, with secondary threads on an abusive drunkard, a school principal, a priest, a delinquent boy, a precocious girl, a man moving in with his daughter-in-law, etc. The filmmakers apparently were intent on making an epic, but the result is a good-looking but dreary film that goes on far too long.
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10/10
Foreign Great.
anaconda-4065815 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Zelary (2003): Dir: Ondrej Trojan / Cast: Anna Geisleruva, Gyorgy Cserhamhi, Jaroslava Adamova, Tomas Zatecka, Iva Bittova: Extraordinary film about danger and peace. Anna Geisleruva plays Eliska, a spy wanted by the Germans. She flees to Zelary accompanied by the quiet and resourceful Joza. Once there her identity is changed and she and Joza get married. Directed by Ondrej Trojan with splendid acting from Geisleruva who was a medical student before being whisked away. Now she must survive but finds shelter and love from Joza. He is played by Gyorgy Cserhalmi who was medicated by her at the hospital but now he must provide for her. Tomas Zatecka plays a boy who flees from school after scorn and abuse. His father is also abusive so he seeks refuge in a cave. He resides in the snowbound forest because his drunken father beats him but he discovers friendship and aid in the form of a young girl who provides comic relief. Jaroslava Adamova.plays a woman who teaches her about the wonders of herbal remedies before they bring this into the community. Iva Bittova plays a neighbor who lives alone with her daughter and helps Geisleruva become familiar with the lifestyles around her. While detailed with strong themes, it is still crafted with great care and great location work to boot. We are given the harsh realities of war and what it is like to live in hiding. Score: 10 / 10
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