Movie Review: “I Served the King of England”
Ivan Barnev and Julia Jentsch in “I Served the King of England.”
Those who seek out “I Served the King of England” will be wined and dined by Jiri Menzel’s epic Czech tale of a man made rich by circumstance and laid low by political naivete. But while all that might sound intimidating, there’s also cutting satire and choreography worthy of Busby Berkeley — thick helpings of farce that help illustrate an everyman’s odd and exhilarating life.
When Jan Dite is first introduced, he is a gray, bent man just released from serving 15 years in a Czech prison for making too much money, and is exiled to an area near the border where Sudeten Germans once lived. Played after his ordeal by Oldrich Kaiser, Dite is trying to make a life in a deserted area where dissidents and social misfits are deposited, and he looks back on a life ruled by adventure, sex and money — all of which he seemed to stumble into as a diminutive young man (Ivan Barnev), Zelig-style.
Dite climbs society’s ladder, starting as a hotdog vendor and moving upward as a waiter, maitre d’ and hotelier through his remarkable ability to make money constantly and be in the right place at the right time. It takes him through a long line of beautiful women before he meets Liza (Julia Jentsch), a German Nazi who helps him amass enough cash to own a posh hotel frequented by world leaders. But under Hitler, that hotel goes through odd phases: first it becomes a breeding place for the “master race,” and in the waning days of World War II, an army hospital filled with amputees and the horrors of war.
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