Zelary movie poster
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Zelary movie poster

Zelary Movie Review

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Nominated for Best Foreign Picture at last year's Academy Awards and finally on DVD in the United States in February 2005, "Zelary" is one of the best movies to grace the silver screen in a long time.

Set in 1940's Czechoslovakia, this Czech film chronicles a few years in the life of a woman named Eliska (Anna Geislerová) who was a nurse until the Nazis caught wind of her involvement in a resistant movement. Suddenly, her life is turned upside down as she is forced to flee to a mountainside community called Zelary with a man she doesn't know, Joza (György Cserhalmi), who's also the man she must marry. Now, she's in a place untouched by time or the war, married to a man she doesn't know, and far from anything she ever knew, but in time will find peace and perhaps even love. Of course, as with all World War II movies, the war only remains distant for so long.

Little need be said about "Zelary." It is basically flawless, with great performances, great direction and a compelling and powerful tale. Geislerová is as good an actress as she is beautiful; she commands every scene even if she doesn't talk much (and when she does she's usually very quiet). Cserhalmi is also very good as Joza, although it would have been nice if the movie had gone a little more in depth with his character. The movie so beautifully portrays Eliska's emotions but doesn't go nearly so far with her significant other. Kudos should also go to Jaroslava Adamová for her performance as the old woman Lucka.

Aside from the acting, director Ondrej Trojan has created a finely crafted film. "Zelary" is simple in its execution, but the movie is about returning to simplicity. From the subtle but riveting dramatic events of the film to the basic fade-outs at the end of some scenes, "Zelary" is perfectly done. Unlike many war movies, much of the movie does not concern itself with the war bur rather with its characters, but it is the wonderful performances of the actors, the small developments in the plot and the unfortunate apprehension that the war is going to catch up with this innocent community at some point that makes "Zelary" very tense, but not in the traditional way.

It's a real shame Sony didn't promote this movie more, for it has everything needed of an emotional World War II epic. "Zelary" is probably the finest war film since "The Pianist."

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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