Zelary isn’t really about World War II. It’s set in a tiny town in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. The movie, in Czech with subtitles, is the story of a woman in the resistance who is forced to abandon her urban home and friends and move to Zelary undercover. The woman, Eliska is a doctor in training, and before leaving she gives blood to the man who ultimately marries her and takes her to his little hometown in the mountains to hide.
The movie is slow-moving, especially in the beginning, and somewhat predictable. We’ve all seen a marriage of convenience story before. But Zelary is worth watching. Eliska slowly falls in love with her new husband,Jozo, who runs a sawmill in Zelary.
The townspeople include a drunken potential rapist and a woman who has sworn off men(I won’t reveal where this leads). A couple of darling children complete the cast, including the stepson of the aforementioned drunk, and the daughter of the aforementioned woman. Ever present is the threat of Nazis invading the town and finding out the townspeople are harboring someone who helped enemies of the Germans.
A priest is murdered, and we see a distant shot of three corpses hanging in the woods, but the movie is not excessively bloody.
It’s an interesting look at Czechoslovakia, and anyone who watches the film will learn a bit about the culture. They will also see a tastefully done falling in love story. The scenery is gorgeous, yet simple. The acting is simple, too, but very good. There’s not really all that much here. It’s a long film, at two and a half hours, but if you make it past the first half hour, you will stay with it.
Zelary was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards in 2004. The movie is available on Netflix DVD.