A young Czech woman named Julinka (Dagmar Blahova) waits out her final days in a Nazi prison at the tail end of World War Two. While she waits in a cold forbidding cell she recalls her life prior to imprisonment.
Julinka's life in the cell - where she is to be executed after 99 days - is rather dull. She shares a cell with a German and then later with another Czech woman. She spends her time painting toy German soldiers and gets breaks every so often to walk around the prison yard. Other times she is berated and tortured by the Nazis men and women who run the prison. The flashbacks are told in poetic form and rarely with dialogue. In them we see the relationship she has with her family, her friends and the men in her life.
The most important being her relationship with the Czech Resistance Movement, which was a thorn in the side of the Nazis and one that resulted in many deaths for the Czech people.
...And Give My Love To The Swallow, directed by Jaromil Jires, is based on the letters and diaries of a real woman who was part of the Czech Resistance named Maruska Kuderikova.
I'm not sure what the real life woman looked like but the actress Dagmar Blahova who plays the lead is about 21 and seems very innocent. So much so it's hard to believe she could have delivered letters and guns to the Resistance fighters. But, then, her looks may be why she the actress was chosen.
Despite the subject matter the film is more bittersweet than depressing because Julinka is presented as a character with a very positive outlook on life and a very clear humanitarian purpose. In the cell she seems almost happy at times and she often giggles with her Czech cell mate, which seems a bit unbelievable. But she also seems very much alone. Her parents, for instance, don't understand her and seem more upset that she doesn't have faith in God than they are that she has been sentenced to death.
Hope comes along when her parents file a pardon of her imprisonment on her behalf. It's an idea that might work but the penalty if she loses the appeal is an immediate execution.
Filmmaker Jeromil Jires was one of the key directors in what was called the Czech New Wave. With this film he stepped away a bit from the bitter irony and inventiveness of his other films [The Joke and Valerie and Her Week of Wonders] but he showed a deft hand at directing and editing.
The DVD is presented full frame with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The colors are drab and at times close to gray, which is intentional. The film print used has a good many splotches. I'm not sure if this is the original aspect ratio but the film does not seem to be compromised nor staged for widescreen.
Audio is in mono and is in Czech with English subtitles. The subtitles cannot be removed. One annoying thing is that when characters speak German there are German subtitles on the original print. So some scenes have two subtitles one on top of the other.
There are no extras on the DVD. The only extra is a six page essay by Susan Doll about the filmmaker Jeromil Jires.
...And Give My Love to the Swallows is a good Czech movie about a young woman imprisoned during World War Two for being part of the Czech Resistance. It has both a sad drab yet bittersweet poetic quality to it. The DVD is bare bones and looks merely okay. But the film is rare and worth a look.