ZELARY. 2003

Director: Ondrej Trojan

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Zelary is a rather tepid Masterpiece Theater style love story of WWII, made in Slovakia rather than by the BBC. A woman (Anna Geislerova) striving to avoid arrest by the Gestapo takes a cool vintage train to an idyllic village called Zelary & has an unrealistically romantic aventure largely untouched by strife until the evil Partisans kill the peasant (Gyorgy Cserhalmi) with whom she fell in love.

ZelaryThe first half of the film she is such a disgusting character, a dilettante in the Resistance who finds her fun activities get her on the Gestapo shitlist.

She has to get out of town fast, & does so without an ounce of respect or appreciation for the quietly selfless peasant who risks his life for her, with scarcely any effort to make herself useful to anyone when she reaches the village.

Slowly after 45 minutes of screen time she comes to admire the peasant way of life & falls in love with brave kind Joza whom she formerly disdained. It might have made more sense if it had been more about how she learned to use her medical training to good effect & was slowly accepted by the villagers, rather than about screwing someone who initially disgusted her.

It's a life with minor turmoils. The Nazis are a bother but not rampaging bad guys like the partisans will prove to be at the end. Village life is rather decent & good even with a few overbearing Germans nearby. It's a world without shtetls or Jews (only once referred to in the script by the euphemism "those who left"), where Occupation is a minor nuisance easy enough to adjust to, where slave labor camps never existed, where domestic bliss is assured & relationship issues are pretty much the worst that can happen.

At its epic length well over two hours, it's hardest to watch while Eliska/Hanulka fails to appreciate the villagers on any level & is selfish & disgruntled over the patience & assistance of a country bumpkin. When she is befriended by old Lucka (Jaroslava Adamova) the midwife & falls in love with the bumpkin Joza the story at least isn't boring, but would've been better had it not been set against a backdrop of WWII since the War so little impacts their lives & it all comes off as some kind of historical whitewash or an alternative reality where Nazis were mild, committing no particular atrocities, & the Jews of Czechoslovakia never existed, in a country that was in reality one of slave labor camps & mass deportations.

The smallest parts of the film are also void of honesty. In an environment where everyone seems to be chugging vodka twenty-four hours a day, the only person acknowledged to have a drinking problem is a rapist & child abuser (& even he is more sympathetic than the partisans). It's like the script was written by some anti-Semitic alcoholic with a sentimental wide-on or boner for the early 1940s.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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