Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan


(Czech Republic, Slovakia, 2003)

Želary (2003) (Czech Republic) (Slovakia) It’s 1943 in what the fucking Nazis called the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, but which was really Occupied Czechoslovakia. The fucking Nazis protected the citizens so well that the Gestapo murdered thousands. Eliška is a medical student who has been helping the Resistance as a messenger, but when some of her contacts are arrested and are sure to talk under torture, she has to flee to the countryside with a new identity. She is now Hana, and has to pretend she is married to Joza, a sawmill worker. As a city girl she naturally hates it, and dreads the sham marriage she has to endure to keep up the masquerade. But Joza is a kind man, and does not force himself on her in any way, even after they are actually married. She gradually comes to accept her lot without reservations, and actually loves Joza. It all comes to an end when Russian troops liberate the area. It’s a “liberation” that Czechs and Slovaks will have to endure for 47 years, until they are able to happily free their country from the iron grip of Soviet totalitarianism.

This movie is a series of small scenes that add up to something wonderful. It would be pointless to describe them all. I highly recommend this one, very highly.

It was nominated for the 2004 Best Foreign Language Oscar. It lost to a distinctly mediocre French-Canadian film, The Barbarian Invasions.