In 1980 Czechoslovakia was under Communist rule and the state were the ones that sanctioned every little detail of people’s lives. Michael and Juraj are two young men training to be priests while the seminarians are being changed in order to fit the rules and approval of the totalitarian control.
This forces Michael (Samuel Skyva) and Juraj (Samuel Polakovic) to make a choice, to either carry on with their studies while things change around them or to become a collaborator for the regime. This causes tensions, not only between the church and the state, but between Michael and Juraj as their relationship gets split apart when one decides to work with the state.
Servants is a dark and oppressive film fitting of the time from director Ivan Ostrochovský, co-written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz and Marek Lescák. The black and white film and aspect ratio of Servants only serves to draw the audience in further and makes them feel like the characters must feel under the oppressive regime and it works remarkably well.
Gone are the widescreen, 4K crystal clear visuals and in its place is a world devoid of colour, with the 4:3 aspect ratio making Servants’ audience feel the claustrophobic confinement as the characters must comply with things out of their control.
However, not only does the state bend and manipulate its main characters, but the church is seen to be doing the same thing albeit from a different angle. The strict Catholic training that the young men must go through are shown to be nothing more than a set of rules from a different place.
Although, one that seems to be more loving and forgiving than the government. The trouble is that when Michael and Jaraj start to realise their division and what it’s done to them, it’s all too little too late.
Visually unique not only in its colour and size, it seems that director Ostrochovský has set out to disorientate and confuse his audience with surprising camera angles and with a script as finely formed as the strict rules of religion and politics. Servants is uncomfortable to watch, but gives the audience a sharp insight into how people living at that time must have felt.
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