I Served the King of England (‘Obsluhoval Jsem Anglického Krále’)

COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 53min (Czech with subtitles)

STARRING: Ivan Barnev, Oldřich Kaiser

Bottoms up! Barnev

Ambition can destroy as completely as it can create, especially when it clouds a man’s judgment. In the peculiar case of elfin Czech waiter Jan Dítě (Barnev as a pre-World War II youngster; Kaiser as his older and wiser self), that ambition is to be rich — and not just any old rich: Dítě has his eye on the millionaire prize. There is nothing unusual about that, nor about his predilection for saucy lookers. Stranger than this fruity slice of fictionalised history is the way the tale is told as a dance of gluttony and lust layered between the rueful reflections of Dítě the elder.


Dítě’s dramatic rise through the service ranks takes an abrupt turn when he marries a German girl (Julia Jentsch), kow-tows to her countrymen and becomes a wealthy man — until the new Communist regime imprisons him. By the time the older Dítě takes the full measure of himself, there is no mistaking the seriousness of writer-director Jiří Menzel’s intent. And what an off-the-wall reckoning it is.