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I Served the King of England [DVD]

Ivan Barnev , Oldrich Kaiser , Jiri Menzel    Suitable for 15 years and over   DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
Price: £6.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Frequently Bought Together

I Served the King of England [DVD] + Closely Observed Trains [DVD] + Larks on a String (Skrivánci na niti) [DVD]
Price For All Three: £24.59

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Product details

  • Actors: Ivan Barnev, Oldrich Kaiser, Julia Jentsch, Martin Huba, Marian Labuda
  • Directors: Jiri Menzel
  • Format: Single, PAL
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Arrow Films
  • DVD Release Date: 26 May 2008
  • Run Time: 114 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00000JSRG
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 27,849 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Humorous wartime film, adapted from the novel by Bohumil Hrabal, following Jan Dite (Ivan Barnev), a waiter fixated on his dream of becoming a hotel owner and millionaire. In 1930s Prague, hotel waiter Jan longs for the life of the rich and famous guests he has to serve. Exploiting every opportunity he can find, especially if it involves a beautiful woman, Jan slowly but surely begins to achieve his heart's desire. But just when things seem to be working out for the upwardly mobile servant, the Nazi occupation threatens to scupper his best laid plans. Chancing on another route by taking up with Aryan amazon Liz (Julia Jentsch), Jan believes he's managed to stave off disaster, only for fate to deal him another decisive blow.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an embarassment of riches 6 Dec 2008
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
There was a great deal of anticipation (in the overheated greenhouse of my heart at least) for this film, and especially so since i missed it at the cinema. This dvd is a real treat, and it doesn't disappoint. Jiri Menzel secured his place in world cinema history with his 1967 smash 'Closely Observed Trains' for which he won an oscar for best foreign language film at the age of just 28!. If you go to his wikipedia page and click on the external link to an interview on the Czech official website then you can see a photo of a very fresh faced young man getting the gong, and that is Menzel. Like his earlier smash, 'I Served the King of England' is based on a book by Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal, with whom Menzel closely collaborated. This is the sixth film of what must rank as one of the most fruitful collaborative artistic friendships in cinema. It is a collaboration the magic of which has most likely run its course since this was the last Hrabal novel that remained to be filmed. All the more reason for it to be savoured, like a dinner thrown at a fancy hotel. It is a satire, but it is without viciousness as such. It is bitter, but it is also sweet. In an interview, Menzel has described his use of humour in the following way:
'I can't stand artistic declarations, the need for a work to say something. In the theater and on film, I want people to laugh and at the same time to discreetly see themselves as they are. In a way that isn't too painful. '
This quotation sums up what the film does for me. There ARE some great laughs, some fantastically choreographed set-pieces and a wealth of beautiful moments that i don't want to spoil. This film is an embarrassment of riches in every sense. It has some great performances by, among others, the finest (in my view) German actress of the moment, Julia Jentsch, and in the leading role Ivan Barnev (young man) and Oldrich Kaiser (older man)
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best of czech cinema 20 Nov 2008
i saw this film in the cinema and it was one of the best films ive seen in a while with an amusing and intresting take on the czech experience of the war. some very charming scenes and does show a love of silent cinema while also remaining a modern film(its not a silent film).
i do recomend this film to all cinema lovers. Mark Wootton
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
When we first see Jan Dite he is an older man being released from a Czech communist prison. In a bit of gentle humor we learn how fortunate he is. An amnesty has set him free, after he only served 14 years and seven months of a 15-year sentence. His crime? That and other things we'll learn in this picaresque, softly ironic, slightly sarcastic comedy of Nazis and Communists, of getting along and of knowing when to move on. I Served the King of England is a marvelous movie by Jiri Menzel, the Czech director who gave us Closely Watched Trains 40 years earlier. While elements of the plot are discussed, there aren't any serious spoilers.

Jan Dite is a young man with all the innocence and practical self-interest of a hungry puppy. He is played by Ivan Barney, short, slim, with blond hair, blue eyes, and a face that, one person said, resembles a mix of, when young, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Roman Polanski and Derek Jacobi. One thing for sure, he's a fine actor. We meet the young man while he's selling sausages at a Czechoslovakia train station in the Thirties. Already he has developed techniques to increase his profit, but he's so earnest, so shy and sly, and so open about it all that we can't help encouraging him. When he realizes even the wealthy will get down on their knees to scrabble after a few coins, he knows he can do just as well as they do. His determination to be a millionaire takes hold. In his climb to success we're with him as he becomes a drinks server and table cleaner in a beer hall, a young man of all duties in a plush resort hotel for the very rich, and a waiter in the dining room of the Hotel Paris, the most beautiful hotel in Prague.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
A superior type of film derived from the rich fertile soil of a middle European sensibility. It travels in a straight line to Gdansk and Gunter Grass' Tin Drum.

Tales of pre war, war and post war abound and within the narrative are encased with no whiff of sentimentality the lives of people struggling within stupendous events. These events are transmitted and created by the characters who inhabited the times. It resonates with a high emotional frequency exploring rich/poor worlds, the sensual decandent luxury of money. It also swoops to purvey the pleasures of being without. An antidote to everything apart from American Beauty swirling from the West. This offers little redemption as history is remade and then made again in central Europe. This is where they have heard countless pairs of boots march down the streets.

In between the ascent of the waiter we glimpse National Socialism in its bizzare and bullying guises. We also see love transcending the divide. There is both a pull to will to power and also a sneaking guffaw from behind the hand at the pomposity. When the small change hits the floor even the wealthiest descends to the most atavistic in scrambling for worthless coins.

The will to power of the waiter ascends the snakes and ladders worlds. It is shot with a superior Czech sensibility, a sense of surreal autism bedecked in pathos.

We see Africa coming to Prague, the lush interiors, the effects of National Socialism, the sensual, those with their limbs chopped, the transit trains to Dachau, firing squads, the robbing of Jewish deportees and finally Communism. All undertaken as part of backdrop swirling around on the radio as our main character appears oblivious to the events around him, adapting with ease to the new regime.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Would more appropriately belong in the audio books section. Would...
A largely narrated film structure, Menzel's 'I Served the King of England' shows no interpretative imagination from the director, who seems unable to let Hrabal's world speak on... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Stoil Medvedev
5.0 out of 5 stars A Right Royal Treat
'I Served the King of England' was an interesting and enjoyable film experience. I usually don't like films with sub titles, but in this case they didn't detract from the enjoyment... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Girvan Paterson
4.0 out of 5 stars "Visually beautiful and adventurous story..."
Czechoslovakian screenwriter, actor and director Jirí Menzel`s sixteenth feature film is an adaptation of a novel from 1971 by Czech author and frequent collaborator of the... Read more
Published on 7 Feb 2012 by Sindri
5.0 out of 5 stars Visual feast
A lovely looking film, full of sensual treats from a filmmaker who wants his work to look good. The film takes a historical trip through Czech history, but it remains humourous and... Read more
Published on 31 Jan 2012 by Jimothy
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful!
I would recommend this film to anyone. Beautiful story, acting and choreography. I was really impressed and it's the sort of film that makes you feel for the lead character and... Read more
Published on 9 July 2011 by faerievampyr
5.0 out of 5 stars A visual treat
Menzel's rendering of this classic Hrabal book is great. I always wonder how he can make decent films out of books which are essentially rambling and disjointed, but somehow he... Read more
Published on 2 Feb 2010 by J. E. Breen
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