Into the Blue

2 minute read
JAN STOJASPAL

In the weeks that followed the 1939 Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, thousands of Czechs and Slovaks fled to continue the fight from abroad. More than 2,000 of them joined Britain’s Royal Air Force (R.A.F.), and nearly 500 died in the line of duty. Yet when the survivors returned home, their heroes’ welcome was short-lived. After the communists took over in 1948, many of those who had fought with the Western allies were arrested, tried and imprisoned as traitors; others were dismissed from their jobs and victimized. For the next 40 years, their story was virtually unknown in their own country.

Czech director Jan Sverák is now attempting to vindicate these brave airmen. His new Czech-and-English-language feature Dark Blue World is a World War II epic about two Czech pilots who join the R.A.F. and fall in love with the same Englishwoman (Tara Fitzgerald from Brassed Off). It’s a story about heroes whom the Czechs locked up when they returned and who were never told they were heroes, says Sverák, 36. It’s also about whether love for the same woman can destroy friendship. Sverák’s conclusion? “It cannot. Friends will be friends even if they may never speak again.”

The most expensive Czech movie ever made, Dark Blue World cost $6.5 million to produce and opens in the Czech Republic this week. Its release in North America is expected before Christmas. Like Kolja, Sverák’s 1996 foreign-language-Oscar winner about an aging bachelor who must take care of a five-year-old Russian boy on the eve of the Velvet Revolution, Dark Blue World was penned by his actor-scriptwriter father Zdenek, 65, who interviewed 30 surviving pilots for the production. “They were such great guys and still are even though they are in their 80s,” says the elder Sverák. “So we decided we had to do a beautiful film about them.” The glowing reviews the movie has received suggest the Sveráks have succeeded.

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