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Home > Movies > I Served the King of England

I Served the King of England

Critic's Pick Critics' Pick

(No longer in theaters)
  • Rating: R — for sexual content and nudity
  • Director: Jirí Menzel   Cast: Ivan Barnev, Oldrich Kaiser, Julia Jentsch, Martin Huba, Marián Labuda
  • Running Time: 120 minutes
  • Reader Rating: Write a Review


Comedy, Romance, War


Rudolf Biermann


Sony Pictures Classics

Release Date

Aug 29, 2008

Release Notes


Official Website


Why can’t Americans make comedies as playful but serious as Jiri Menzel’s I Served the King of England (opening August 29), based on a book by the great Czech satirist Bohumil Hrabal? Is it because we can’t stand the thought of a hero who is at once indifferent to politics and entirely shaped by them? Jan Ditte (Oldrich Kaiser) emerges from a Czech prison after nearly fifteen years and is exiled to an abandoned village—once occupied by Germans—on the border. As he mulls over his life, we see flashbacks of him as a slight, Chaplinesque fellow (Ivan Barnev) who wants only to be rich and manages to accommodate himself to all sorts of people—generals, kings, industrialists, and, eventually, the invading Nazis. The flashbacks are in the style of silent comedy, their magical naïveté at odds with Ditte’s cynical view of human nature and the encroaching horror of Nazism. Menzel’s touch is sprightly, lyrical, mischievously understated—his hero neither good nor evil but blessed (and cursed) by tunnel vision. How could he have guessed what the Commies would make of his wealth—or that bad luck would be his redemption?