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Closely Watched Trains at the Restored European Film Festival

10.-30.1.2013 Israel Cinematheques




Story: Bohumil Hrabal (of the novel of the same name)
Screenplay: Bohumil Hrabal, Jiří Menzel
Directed by: Jiří Menzel
Director of Photography: Jaromír Šofr
Music: Jiří Šust
Premiere: 18.1.1966
Architect: Oldřich Bosák
Sound: Jiří Pavlík
Editing: Jiřina Lukešová
Costumes: Jaroslav Holub, Olga Dimitrovová

Cast: Václav Neckář, Jitka Bendová, Vladimír Valenta, Libuše Havelková, Josef Somr 

Produced by Barrandov Film Studios, 1966

The Second World War is drawing to its end. At a small railway station, an adolescent trainee is turning into a man, but soon after crossing the threshhold of maturity he is killed in a railway sabotage action against the occupying Germans. In line with the poetics of Bohumil Hrabal on whose literary piece the film is based, the story of the young trainee as well as that of the other employees and inhabitants of the railway station is treated with humour, which, however, never looses a tinge of absurdity and tragedy characteristic of the times. The Closely Watched Trains won the director Jiří Menzel the Award of the American Film Academy– an Oscar for the Best Non-English Language Film of 1967.


Though this may strike present-day audiences as somewhat peculiar, cinema was not always seen as an art form. Quite to the contrary—in its earliest beginnings, film was considered a disposable object, as ephemeral as the images it brings to the screen. It took a while for the artistic significance of filmmaking to become self-evident, and when it did, the need arose to not only celebrate cinema but also protect it from the ravages of time and usage. Beginning in the 1930s, institutions were set up to defend the seventh art for the benefit of future generations.

Particularly influential in this area were the European film archives, which today represent the largest repositories of world cinema. It is due to their endeavors that today we are able to appreciate many of Europe’s screen gems, and continue sustaining a century-long passion for cinematic wonder.

 "Another Look: The Restored European Film Project" marks a unique venture whose purpose is to raise awareness to both classic European cinema and the means by which it is preserved. Through the collaboration of the European Union and local European embassies, this project will present ten films, one from each of its participating nations, all in restored versions and high quality formats. These works were not only chosen for their artistic merit but because they reflect on different facets of European film heritage as well as modern European history. Taken together, they thus give evidence to the diversity of cinematic practice and its potential to illuminate our cultural understanding.

The project’s film selection will be presented at the Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa Cinematheques during the month of January, 2013. This program is divided into two main thematic sections. The first, titled "Band of Brothers", focuses on cinematic attempts at defining a community in Europe. Films in this section struggle with Europe’s longstanding legacy of social fission, and in the process, offer dystopian and utopian visions on the possibility of forming a union within and across national boundaries. The second section, titled "From the Mouth of Babes", centers on films which use European youths as a way of providing social commentary. Here, children and young men and women are placed in situations whereby they have the opportunity to reflect on the injustice perpetrated by their elders and perhaps offer an avenue of change. While referring to past occurrences, both these sections carry resonance with present-day tensions within the European continent. Accordingly, they not only testify to the rich heritage of European filmmaking but propose new ways for Israeli audiences to enhance their understanding of European culture.

In addition to its screening program, the project will also feature a symposium on the topic of audiovisual preservation and restoration. The session will include presentations from well-known experts representing the European and Israeli archiving fields. While geared primarily towards film and archive professionals, this symposium is open to the public, and all who are interested in audiovisual preservation are encouraged to attend.

Tel Aviv Cinematheque 13.1.2013, 21h


Jerusalem Cinematheque 24.1.2013, 19h


Haifa Cinematheque 19.1.2013, 17h