Release: 27 Aug. 04
BY: DAVID PERRY
The small town of Zelary in the mountains of Czechoslovakia
is seemingly untouched by outside forces when Eliska (Geislerova) arrives
there. Her resistance group has been caught by the Nazis, and she’s able to
hitch a place with a man whose life she saved when he returns to Zelary.
There, she’ll take the name Hana and become the dutiful wife to this man,
Joza (Cserhalmi). The town welcomes her like one of their own.
This story of survival may involve the majority of Zelary’s 150-minute
screen time, but only at the end does any of it really have an impact. The
town, so far from major roads that the Nazis never want to go out of their
way to check it, has a collection of odd characters and contrived scenarios
that fail to really involve the audience. But when the Partisans, not the
Nazis, arrive in the third act, the film suddenly has something to say, and
director Ondrej Trojan knows how to say it. Establishing that both sides of
this war -- Nazi and Partisan -- are enemies of Zelary, their modernization
destructive of its thin fibers of old fashioned collectivism, Trojan
comments with a fine regard for his setting and its plight. The only problem
is that it takes nearly two hours to get to this section of the film and,
unless you’re willing to pay $10 for a nice nap, it’s a tough pill to
swallow until you get to the salvation.