Servants

IN THEATERS AND ON DEMAND 02.25.2022
Directed by Ivan Ostrochovský
Film Movement
2020
81 Minutes
Slovakia, Romania, Czech Republic, Ireland
Slovak
Drama
Not Rated

In Czechoslovakia, 1980, the totalitarian Communist regime demands allegiance from all its subjects, including the clergy. Servants follows Michal and Juraj, two conflicted novitiates whose seminary is under increasing pressure by the Party to mold its students into satisfactory citizens. With the school on the brink of dissolution, and its head priest a target for blackmail, Michal and Juraj will have to choose between collaborating with the government as informants, or becoming targets of the secret police. Shot in striking, atmospheric black-and-white, Servants is both a brooding morality tale and a taut political thriller "that jitters and shivers with anti-authoritarian sentiment beneath its serene monochrome aesthetic" (Variety).

Director & Cast

  • Director: Ivan Ostrochovský
  • Starring: Samuel Skyva
  • Starring: Samuel Polakovic
  • Starring: Vlad Ivanov
  • Starring: Vladimír Strnisko

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Trailer

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Reviews

  • "[A] brilliantly crafted, atmospherically enveloping seminary drama."
    Guy Lodge, Variety
  • "Ostrochovsky delivers a series of striking visual images, often from unusual overhead angles. Starting with the very first shot — which follows a car driving a forlorn road at night — his bold, confident strokes accumulate into a sharp portrait of restrained, stylish and brooding power."
    Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter
  • "Servants is set in 1980, in the thick of communist Czechoslovakia during the Cold War era; however Ivan Ostrochovsky’s insidiously flinty, supremely assured and chillingly stylish second feature spins a story which is of utmost relevance today. [T]his is an unsettling rebuke of government control and ideological manipulation — as well as a sharp cry against compliance with the prevailing status quo."
    Sarah Ward, Screen Daily
  • "Critic's Pick! Captivating...“Servants” pairs chilly black-and-white imagery, reminiscent of films by Robert Bresson, with an austere kind of choreography: Ostrochovsky often begins shots with characters frozen in place for several seconds before they launch into action, as if they were chess pieces moved by God across the bare lines of the seminary’s crumbling stone architecture. "
    Natalia Winkelman, The New York Times
  • "[A]n impressionistic work of sharp beauty and cutting political insight."
    Redmond Bacon, Cultured Vultures
  • "[A] period piece which often takes on shades of a film noir. Poetically photographed and tinged by dueling metaphors of the sacred and profane...."
    Nicholas Bell, Ion Cinema
  • "This is an austere and laudable drama enhanced by its stunning visual allure.... Servants is true to the spirit of Bresson...."
    Meredith Taylor, Filmuforia
  • "the most impressive thing about Servants is how Ostrochovský has managed to sustain the unrelenting tension and uncertainty throughout...."
    Vladan Petkovic, Cineuropa
  • "[I]mpressive, filled with striking cinematography ...."
    Daniel Lammin, Makes the Switch
  • "A film that jitters and shivers with anti-authoritarian sentiment beneath its serene monochrome aesthetic."
    Guy Lodge, Variety
  • "[D]irector Ivan Ostrochovský’s stylish political thriller, co-written with Rebecca Lenkiewicz and Marek Lescák, plays like a film noir, with its high-contrast monochrome cinematography...."
    Simran Hans, The Observer
  • "Pure evil permeates this brief, 80-minute film, whose cold visual brilliance reminds me of the recent movies of Paweł Pawlikowski."
    Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
  • "Strikingly shot in black and white, this Soviet-era drama from Slovakia has an eerily timeless quality to it. Filmmaker Ivan Ostrochovsky captures scenes in a beautiful documentary style, taking a bold approach to the pungent idea that it's easier to give in than to take a stand. The film's sometimes austere tone is cleverly maintained, offering glimpses of earthy real life that make the story darkly engaging."
    Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
  • "This film is a striking mixture of a foreboding, almost dreamlike tone with the offhand."
    Andrew Plimpton, Film Forward