DOBRY VOJAK SVEJK (1955)
aka Usody dobreho vojaka Svejka, The Good Soldier Svejk
Article 5314 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Jiri Trnka
Featuring the voice of Jan Werich
What it is: Puppet animation satire
An eager recruit named Svejk wishes to serve his country during World War I, but he drives his superiors crazy. Is he an imbecile? Insane? Or possibly a spy?
The last movie I saw by Jiri Trnka told its adaptation of a Decamaron story without a word of dialogue, so it could be understood by someone not familiar with the Czech language. That’s not the case with this one; it’s heavy with dialogue, and the print I saw was not only in Czech, but featured a second voice-over saying the dialogue in a different language, probably Russian. Was I able to follow it? No, not a word. I do know, however, that “The Good Soldier Svejk” is a popular Czechoslovakian satire about a WWI soldier who drives his superior crazy due to his antics. I was hoping to find a plot description of the book to help me, but the novel is quite episodic, and this adaptation only covers three incidents in the book. The book sounds quite interesting, and I may try to find an English copy and read it some day. This does not help me at this point, though. The movie is well-animated, and it looks like it could be a lot of fun; I particularly love Svejk’s always-smiling demeanor. However, as far as the story goes, I’m totally lost. Furthermore, I was unable to find a shred of fantastic content, and the Walt Lee guide which lists this gives no clue as to what that content might be. Is it possible that the fact that it involved puppet animation was the sole reason for its conclusion? I don’t know, but if I read the novel someday, maybe I’ll know.