Multiple Czech films have become popular not only in our country but also abroad. This is especially true in the case of many Czech movies originating from the directors who belonged to the Czechoslovakian “New Wave” in 1960s. This filmmaking movement provided a fresh outlook on the world around us and its creators weren’t afraid to stir the still waters of Czechoslovakian cinematography. One of the most popular films of the era is the film Ostře sledované vlaky, known abroad by its English title Closely Watched Trains. Jiří Menzel directed the film and he chose the highly successful short book of the same name (written by Bohumil Hrabal) as his source material.
Closely Watched Trains is the first one of only two Czech films which had ever won an Oscar (the second one is Kolja from 1996). The film’s worldwide premiered took place in October 1966 at an international film festival in Germany. Many people saw the film, only in Czechoslovakia more than 2 million people visited the cinemas to watch it. After the communistic reign gained hold once more, Closely Watched Trains were forbidden for the following 20 years.
However, the communistic ban didn’t diminish the film’s success abroad, and not only in Germany. Besides the film’s Oscar nomination and subsequent victory, the United States also acknowledged Closely Watched Trains in a few different ways. For example, the popular American Time magazine included this film in its list of the one hundred best films ever made. What’s more, the New York Times critics even selected the film as one of the best 10 films of 1967. So even though it takes place in a Czech environment, it spoke to the world thanks to its portrayal of absurdities of everyday life.