"Modeling Christian Charity"
Academy Award Nominee“ ZELARY, a movie from Czecholslovakia, is inspired by actual events described in Kvita Legatova’s autobiographical novella “Jozo Vanahule.” The movie, it turns out, is a deeply satisfying story of earnest love, honor and sacrifice during World War II. Thanks to Director Ondrej Trojan and Cinematographer Asen Sopov, ZELARY shimmers with a visual beauty. The title itself refers to a rural mountain village struggling to find peace and isolation during the ravages of war. Director Trojan previously produced another MOVIEGUIDE“ favorite entitled DIVIDED WE FALL. That movie, too, contained strong Christian elements, and, in ZELARY, Trojan again displays God-fearing characters and strong redemptive themes.
ZELARY opens as Richard and Eliska, an attractive couple, are enjoying the richness and excesses of 1943 city life. An illicit affair, posh living accommodations, an expensive automobile, and the freedom to travel virtually anywhere are privileges of the upper class. This doctor and nurse’s romantic evening, however, is interrupted as they are summoned to an emergency at the hospital.
A mountain man from Zelary has suffered a tragic accident, and Eliska is the only one available with a matching blood type. The surgery and transfusion save the big man’s life and Eliska cares for him in his days of recovery. Meanwhile, Eliska and her colleagues assist the underground resistance movement by hand-delivering messages to closely guarded areas. Soon, Hitler’s National Socialists discover their involvement and set out to arrest them.
Eliska awakens to discover that Richard has fled during the night, abandoning her to save himself. Another doctor helps her elude authorities by arranging for Joza, the mountain man, to take her back to his village and hide her as his new bride. Eliska changes her name to Hana and travels a great distance with Joza to rural Zelary. Joza, reserved and quiet in the city, becomes more alive and invigorated as he gets closer to home. Hana, on the other hand, becomes more distant and depressed by the rugged conditions of this backward and backwoods life.
Zelary is a village isolated from Nazi domination, yet fearful of soldiers passing through. Joza’s neighbors are not presented as perfect people, but family, faith and relationships are most important to these mountain residents. The town’s priest is a godly man who prays and desires to do right at all times, yet struggles with the deception of hiding Hana from the authorities. Reluctantly, Hana agrees to marry Joza right away in a simple village wedding. She is then welcomed and embraced by the other residents. Hana’s sadness deepens as she adjusts to Joza’s rugged shack of dirt floors and no electricity. Nearby, a town drunk creates tremendous problems for his family, his neighbors and the newly arrived Hana, but his drunkenness is rebuked and the consequences of his actions are clearly shown.
Joza, at least, is a religious and upright man who cherishes Hana and believes in the sanctity of marriage. He is a gentle giant of a man who protects Hana and the other villagers from various dangers. Slowly, Hana warms to Joza and their tender romance blossoms along with the changing seasons of the picturesque Zelary countryside.
A couple of years pass and Hana has grown to deeply love Joza and the people of Zelary. During a Christmas service in church, and the reading of the Christmas story, Nazis descend on the village to punish those who have willingly hid dissidents.
ZELARY is a poignant story of passion and values. Before its conclusion, many will sacrifice their lives to protect others from the enemy. Hardships will come but life will continue in Zelary.
Despite its mature themes, violence and brief nudity, ZELARY is unexpectedly charming and delightful. Director Trojan occasionally side-steps into the lives of the children trying to grow up under those awful and terrifying experiences. As a result, there is a particularly wonderful conversation about God between a young girl and the village priest. A delicate story in the hands of a talented cast and crew, this movie is a touching account of survival. Though there is much pain along the way, ZELARY turns out to be a wonderful place to visit.
(CC, BBB, H, P, LL, VV, S, NNN, AA, D, MM) Strong Christian worldview reflects strong Christian themes in remarks by main characters such as “Praise Jesus,” “Lord keep us,” and “Confession eases the soul,” Christian priest saves the life of a lost friend, child talks with priest about her relationship with God, and many people sacrifice their lives to save others, presented with very strong moral content (including sacredness of marriage strongly emphasized and many instances of mercy and loving thy neighbor) and minor humanistic elements in a story about a woman seeking sanctuary from National Socialist fascists during WWII, as well as western allied soldiers shown in positive light; nine light obscenities and one strong obscenity; subdued (mostly implied) violence includes man’s arm being broken, numerous shootings and executions, attempted rape (interrupted), fights, stabbing with some blood shown, implied rape by soldier, villagers shown hanging, wound cleaned and stitched, miscarriage with much blood on dress, and birth with little blood; implied promiscuity, married couple kisses in bed, and implied sex; upper male nudity, upper female nudity, brief full female nudity; drinking and drunkenness; smoking; and, stealing and wrongdoing strongly rebuked, themes of deception and lying, priest suggests he is forced to commit fraud, woman assists underground resistance, and man confesses unfaithfulness to new bride.
Academy Award Nominee“ ZELARY from Czechoslovakia is inspired by actual events described in an autobiographical novella. The title itself refers to a rural mountain village struggling to find peace and isolation during the ravages of war in World War II. A mountain man from Zelary agrees to hide and protect a city woman who worked with the underground resistance movement against the National Socialists. So Hana and Joza are thrust upon each other in difficult rural conditions. They marry, because it is proper and it is the only way the villagers will accept Hana. Eventually, their tender relationship blossoms over time. During a reading of the Christmas story in church, Nazi soldiers descend on the village to punish those who have willingly hid dissidents.
ZELARY is a deeply satisfying story of earnest love, honor and sacrifice during war. Shimmering with a visual beauty, the movie contains Christian elements, God-fearing characters and strong redemptive themes, but also has some strong violence and brief nudity. Before its conclusion, many will sacrifice their lives to protect others from the enemy. Though there is much pain along the way, ZELARY turns out to be a wonderful place to visit.