STARRING: Anna Geislerova, Gyorgy Cserhalmi, Trude Ackermann, Jaroslava Adamova
DIRECTOR: Ondrej Trojan
RUNNING TIME: 150 minutes
RATING: Rated R for violence and some sexual content
THE LOWDOWN: A young Czech nurse working in the resistance movement in the 1940s saves and then is saved by a barbaric man living in a remote cabin. In Czech with English subtitles.
It was described to me as a World War II chick flick. How could I refuse?
"Zelary" is a lovely wartime romance, refreshing and heartwarming despite its 2 1/2 hours.
The movie explores the relationship between modern and barbaric, educated and simple, cosmopolitan and rural and shows how extraordinary conditions can make those definitions blur and become meaningless.
This 2003 Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film centers around Eliska (Anna Geislerova), a young medical school student in Czechoslovakia in the 1940s. When the Germans close the universities, she becomes a nurse in a city hospital. She is also active in the resistance movement along with her lover, Richard, a surgeon.
Elisaka's life is changed one day when a man from a rural mountain area is brought to the hospital in need of a transfusion. Elisaka is the only one with his blood type, and she saves the man, in the process forging a strange bond.
Soon the resistance group is discovered, and Richard is forced to flee. A safe haven is found for Eliska in the remote cabin of Joza (Gyorgy Cserhalmi), the man whose life she saved.
Eliska must leave her liberated life behind and become a new woman, Hana, the obedient wife of this mountain man. Now she's living in the village of Zelary, where time stopped 150 years earlier, in the most cruel environment, amid fear and suspicion.
For her very survival, Hana must make this work. Her antagonism with Joza eventually gives way to an understanding about their shared plight. She begins to see the beauty of living according to nature. First Eliska saved Joza, now Joza has saved Hana.
Geislerova, one of the most popular Czech actresses, gives a stellar performance that is wise beyond her years. She transforms from an emancipated young woman to unquestioning wife through acceptance and resilience.
Despite some confusing subplots and poorly integrated supporting characters, "Zelary" is a touching tale of two people against the odds. It's also a testament to the power of survival and the unwavering need for love.