WWII Film Review – Dark Blue World (Tmavomodrý svet, 2001)

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If you are stricken by the romance of the skies, movies about the Battle of Britain have surely been among your favorites. Dark Blue World is among the best of them.

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Directed by Jan Sverák and produced in the Czech Republic in 2001, this film has the most stunning aerial combat recreation and visual effects to that date. What makes this movie good is that there is a truly heart-wrenching plot and a historical setting that we rarely have the privilege of seeing. Its a story of friendship, betrayal, self-sacrifice, loss and endurance by a band of humiliated Czech patriots. These are the fellows who did not stand for the occupation of their nation by the Nazis, they fled to Great Britain, joined the RAF, trained hard, and flew for liberty. This makes for a rich setting for some wonderful storytelling.

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Visually this film is magnificent. The DVD has some stunning “making of” features that evoke great wonder, its really amazing how they pulled off some of the aerial feats. Archival footage in some scenes will be recognized, but its been colorized and masterfully integrated.

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The story centers on Czech pilot Franta, who is imprisoned in a labor camp in Czechoslovakia after WWII by the Soviet machine (he’s likely to be a nationalist and cause trouble, can’t have unauthorized heroes in the Soviet realm). He recounts his story to the prison doctor, a former SS man, of his time serving the Czech cause in the RAF. Franta was like a big brother to so many of the youth who fled their homes, but especially of Karel, a young pup of a pilot. Unfortunately, there was a love interest that the two men shared, and both ended up without the sweet lady. Sadly, Karel suffered the most. The story is heartbreaking, the ending is very understated, but loss and emptiness are not to be avoided. After all, the viewer knows Franta’s story is being told from prison, where “the only amnesty is a cart to the cemetery”.

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This is a film that can be relished for visual delight, pretty good historical accuracy, and dramatic storytelling. Half of the film is subtitled in Czech, but since the young pilots learn English and fly from England, half of the film is spoken in English.

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I have to give this the top spot of all films dealing with the Battle of Britain, the aerial scenes are well executed, attention to detail is fantastic. The cinematography is richly colored and framed up very well, and the special effects are better than much of the garbage being pumped out of Hollywood. The story is emotional and believable, the characters can be identified with one’s own experiences, and the Czech connection is a welcomed historical context. Very much worth your viewing time!

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For parents looking to use film as teaching tools, this film has some typical young male, testosterone-induced banter and crude jesting. There are frequent glances at nude pinups by the young pilots, and a brief glancing nude scene. There is marital infidelity justified by the possibility of a lost spouse, and adult theme that accompany such poor choices. You should preview this film first. In a day where we can use such films to teach about history, and we can watch them on our computers and devices, it is easy to selectively view a film if you can log a timeline. Attentive parenting opens up some good opportunities for showing the fullness of WWII to our kids, it wasn’t just the US against Britain, or the Japs and the Marines. It was comprehensive and so many small nations bore the brunt of tyranny. This film provides a good perspective from a conquered people.

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The film is a heart-breaker at the end, I’ll let you watch, but this scene is a tear jerker even for the toughest man:

The gut wrenching scene where Frata loses his love and his dear Barcha.
The gut wrenching scene where Frata loses his love and his dear Barcha.
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