here is a very disturbing trend in cinema nowadays. I used
to think it was just American cinema, but it appears that, with "Dark Blue
World," even the international community is getting into the act. That
trend? What I like to call the Trivial Love Triangle During a Major Historical
Event movies. Coincidentally (or is it?) all movies that fit in the above
category seems to take place during World War II.
at the Gates" and "Pearl
Harbor," Jan Sverak's "Dark Blue World" takes place in World
War II, and concerns Czech pilots who, as the Germans are rolling into their
country unopposed, decides to flee to England to continue fighting with the RAF (English Royal Air Force). While doing combat runs over
England and France, best friends Franta (Ondrej Vetchy) and Karel (Krystof
Hadek) both fall for the same woman. The woman in question is Susan (Tara
Fitzgerald), an English woman who lives out in the country and takes care of
children orphaned by the German bombing runs. First Karel falls for Susan, and
then Franta, then the two men argue, and then one dies and the other survives…
Well, you know how it goes, don't you?
For its first hour "Dark Blue World" is very
good, even though its concept of the War as a series of sporadic dogfights in
the sky is a little bit limiting. That isn't to say director Sverak doesn't know
his action, it's just that even with the dogfights being brilliantly framed by
cinematographer Vladimir Smutny, how many times can you see planes duking it out
in the air before it gets repetitive? There is one scene when Sverak seems
particularly inspired, and it concerns a dogfight that, as filmed, sends large
bullet casings flying into frame. The bullet casings are obviously CGI-rendered,
but that small, brief scene is probably the best sequence in the whole movie.
As written by Zdenek Sverak (who I believe is director Jan
Sverak's father), "Dark Blue World" handles the male bonding themes
between the young Karel and his mentor/commander Franta well. I like that Karel
acted like a child, impatient and brash, while Franta remained in control and
calm throughout – a father figure, if you will. The supporting cast, the other
members of Franta's Czech squad, were also well written and personable, and
includes a suave piano player (Oldrich Kaiser) and a coward (David Novotny) who,
because of his habit of returning to base as soon as he launches, is nicknamed
And then the romance kicks into gear, and suddenly the
whole film falls apart. When Karel's plane crashes in the English countryside
during a dogfight, he stumbles his way to Susan's house. Susan is married, but
her husband has been missing at sea for some time. And then stumbles in the
young, impressionable, and very horny Karel, who promptly gets her into bed that
very night and falls heads over heels in love. She's his first love, not to
mention his first real sexual experience.
Of course, since this is a Trivial Love Triangle During a
Major Historical Event movie, Susan and Franta promptly falls in love upon first
meeting, leaving poor Karel out in the cold. It goes without saying that the
romance angle is handled badly, and the movie treats Susan as if she was a slut,
willingly falling into bed with any man that runs across her way. Why exactly
did she fall in love with Franta? Your guess is as good as mine, because I can't
for the life of me figure it out. Franta is not particularly handsome, or smart,
or even charming. And neither is Karel, for that matter. And yet, Susan, lonely
Susan, just ups and "falls in love," which sets up Karel and Franta
for their obligatory "conflict scenes." Susan's loneliness as the
cause for her sexual carelessness is not a good explanation, because she clearly
has a busy life taking care of the children.
There is another thing about "Dark Blue World"
that immediately struck me as being a terrible decision on the filmmaker's part.
The film opens in 1950 to show us a very much alive Franta, now living in a
Soviet prison. You see, in 1950 the Soviet Communist Machine has taken over the
Czech Republic, and pilots like Franta are deemed threats to the current regime.
The film then flashes back to 1939, and follows Franta and Karel's experiences
in the war, and their doomed love triangle. (Franta even narrates.) What does
this mean to the film? For one, it tells us, with explicit clarity, who will
survive the war! Needless to say, this does very little for the tension
needed in the combat scenes. Gee, I wonder if Franta will survive…? Even
(for all of its faults) didn't deprive us of the "who will die, who will
live" question with its opening sequence.
"Dark Blue World" is not without the good. The
dogfights are well done and director Sverak and cinematographer Smutny lingers
in the skies along with the planes, giving us a serene and poetic view of the
clouds. The framing of the combat sequences are breathtaking, but there is
little else about "Dark Blue World" to get too excited about.
Been there, done that, don't want the T-shirt -- even one
from the Czech Republic.