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I Served the King of England (2008)

Ivan Barnev , Oldrich Kaiser , Jirí Menzel  |  R |  DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Ivan Barnev, Oldrich Kaiser, Julia Jentsch, Marián Labuda, Milan Lasica
  • Directors: Jirí Menzel
  • Writers: Jirí Menzel, Bohumil Hrabal
  • Producers: Andrea Metcalfe, Helena Uldrichová, Petr Dvorak, Robert Schaffer, Rudolf Biermann
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Czech
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: February 17, 2009
  • Run Time: 113 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,885 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "I Served the King of England" on IMDb

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Dreaming of becoming a millionaire, a short but ambitious Czech works his way into a posh pre-war luxury spa, where his marriage to a Hitler-loving fräulein provides him with a golden opportunity to make his fondest wish come true.

I Served the King of England treads lightly through a dark time--before, during, and after World War II in Eastern Europe. This cinematic fable follows an impish Czechoslovakian man who leads a modestly charmed life as a waiter at hotels and brothels, sleeping with prostitutes and chambermaids as he dreams of wealth and plays pranks on the rich and bourgeois. But when he falls in love with a fervent Nazi woman, glimpses of a bleak reality intrude into his whimsical life. I Served the King of England doesn't delve in to the horrors of the concentration camps (though it does explore some strange, lesser-known corners of the Nazi psyche). This is the story of a man who leads a shallow life, who evades atrocity almost by accident, and who grows haunted by his lack of engagement and pursuit of meaningless goals--and yet, he survives while others do not. The movie's charm and humor are rich and multilayered (though it's unfortunate that its female characters are not as well-drawn as the men and the treatment of prostitution is, at best, glib). I Served the King of England is a sweet and subtle movie with an erotic streak that will appeal more to men than to women. --Bret Fetzer

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Ironic Look at Political Upheaval and Human Ambition. February 28, 2009
"I Served the King of England" is directed and adapted for the screen by Jiri Menzel, from the novel by Bohumil Hrabal that follows the tumultuous political environment of the mid-20th century in Czechoslovakia through the experiences of an ambitious young waiter. Released after serving 15 years in prison, Jan Dite (Oldrich Kaiser) recalls his life before he lost his freedom as he toils laying gravel for mountain roads. The younger Jan (Ivan Barnev) only ever aspired to one thing: He wanted to be a millionaire, to live the life of luxury and pleasure that his clients enjoyed. He moved from a pub to progressively more luxurious places of employment with increasingly wealthier clientele, finally ending up at Prague's most beautiful hotel, Hotel Paris, an idyll that was interrupted when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia.

Like so many films from Eastern Europe, this one offers a sweeping perspective on the rapid social and political changes that afflicted its country from the 1930s to 1950s, from normalcy through the rise and fall of fascism and on to communism. But instead of characters who are victims of overwhelming political forces, we have Jan Dite, a single-minded, politically indifferent -if not actually oblivious- waiter. Jan wants money, women, and the finer things in life. And he cheerfully pursues them, too simple-minded to care about much else, but observant enough to notice that people all want those things no matter what else changes. His life is a satire of human ambition, comic even when it is tragic, with an ironic view of the devastation and turmoil surrounding World War II as it is seen through the eyes of someone who is just along for the ride.

The DVD (Sony 2009): The film is in Czech with optional English or French subtitles. But when German is spoken in the film, it isn't consistently subtitled. The only bonus feature is a theatrical trailer (2 min).
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Delightful Fable April 15, 2009
"I Served the King of England" is a real surprise. In Los Angeles theaters for half a second, I can't imagine this little Czech fable enjoyed a long theatrical run anywhere else. It's a shame. "King of England" is a delightful, fantastical little film directed by Jiri Menzel, the director behind "Closely Watched Trains", winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film in 1966.

The film opens with Jan Dite (Oldrich Kaiser) being released from prison and assigned to work in the forest, along with other cultural subversives. As he goes about refurbishing the run down cabin where he has been assigned to live, he remembers back to his early years, the years when all he wanted was to be a millionaire and own a posh, grand hotel. As we follow Jan (Ivan Barnev), he slowly works his way up from assistant waiter at a bar where intellectuals meet (and a prostitute entices him to her place of business introducing him to the pleasures of the flesh) to a fancy hotel in the country that caters to the whims of very rich men. He works his way up to the most grand and beautiful hotel in Prague. After he becomes the head waiter, World War II breaks out and Jan falls in love with a young German woman. Throughout these moments, the film follows Jan's rise from one job, each more important than the last, and also follows his sexual education from his initial meetings with a prostitute to his various affairs with different women.

I know, it sounds pretty pedestrian, like a million other films you have seen. Which is maybe the reason I didn't rush to the theaters to see it during it's theatrical release. But I was wrong. Very wrong. "I Served the King of England" is designed to look like a living fairy tale, even when World War II enters the film.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slapstick, Swastikas, and Sex December 26, 2009
Here's a stunning Czech sleeper loaded with so many aspects that it may take several viewings to pick up the details crammed into every shot. 'I Served the King of England' opens as a light, whimsical comedy featuring the antics of a diminutive and ambitious young waiter who wants nothing more than to make money. Ivan Barnev's peformance in the lead role is akin to Roberto Benigni's in 'Life is Beautiful,' the wonderful physicality of his humor and pratfalls, facial expressions, and comedic timing make for hilarious and touching viewing. The story is told back and forth from the perspective of an older, wiser Dite (played by Oldrich Kaiser) who is jailed by communists for the crime of being a millionaire, serving one year for each of the millions he made. The path Dite took to earn those millions is as surreal as European history itself, a history hijacked by a little Austrian corporal and a Georgian street thug. That surreal history slowly seeps into the film as Dite stumbles into a Nazi eugenics program, or his wife fervently stares at a portrait of Hitler as he makes love to her (and the wife herself briefly transmogrifies into the aforementioned diktator.)
The countryformerlyknownas Czechoslovakia is dismembered by German manuevers, British flipflopping before Churchill, and is finally devoured by that insatiable swatiska beast, yet Dite blithely continues onward, adopting a certain part to his hair, and growing a small square moustache. He collects all of the mirrors discarded by a local village, because the people believe that when they look into them, the Germans come. Sure enough, the mirror over Dite's marital bed begins to catch reflections of herr Hitler.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great DVD, girlfriend loved it. Me too
I saw this years ago on Netflix when I was using their DVD service (I still am...I'm just not giving dvds back - they sent me two and if I send them back, I'll only be getting one... Read more
Published 4 months ago by internetshoppinggo
5.0 out of 5 stars I Served the King of England.
This movie is just a really fine film. It's funny and touching and tragic at the same time. It's the most unusual war picture you'll ever see.
Published 6 months ago by Xue
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Miss this Movie!!
I love this movie; it's on my top ten all-time favorites. Its a hilarious look at human folly, but at the same time disturbing and uplifting. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Anne
5.0 out of 5 stars I served the King of England
One of the most enjoyable, entertaining movies now in my library. Acting and dialouge were superb, as were the actors. Such good fun, something, sadly, American film badly lack. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Serenade
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Film
Anyone who has seen this film has enjoyed it . A close friend told me he wept at the end of it. No, it's not sad, just touching.
Published 10 months ago by Luba
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining
I enjoyed the book, and wanted to see the movie. I know work of Hrabal, and always liked his material on a big screen.
Published 18 months ago by Pavlina Kovarikova
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful movie
We saw this on TV and as my husband collects scales he was excited by the character Berkel the scale manufacturer, so we HAD to purchase it. It is outstanding acting and filming.
Published 19 months ago by Shirley Schmidt
5.0 out of 5 stars Profound statement to the culture of the time.
This a beautiful, amusing, and profound state introduces the Czech culture of this time period from the point of view of the wealthy.
Published 20 months ago by Kenneth Bartos
4.0 out of 5 stars Good World War 2 Movie
I enjoyed Watching this period war Movie because it showed the war through a chez waiter who worked at various hotels and married a German Women.....
Published 22 months ago by captshawn
5.0 out of 5 stars I was stunned at this films.................
ability to grab your attention about the principals' goals in lif as a waiter. The trials and tribulations are hysterical, however there are many moments of grave seriousness as... Read more
Published on November 10, 2011 by Paul
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