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Servants

The AFI European Union Film Showcase, now in its 33rd year, is a great opportunity to break free from whatever prestige drama you’ve been rewatching for the past couple months. One of the better films in this year’s slate is Servants, a dramatic thriller. Yes, it is a tough sell: It’s a black-and-white film, using the classic 4:3 aspect ratio, that follows a group of idealistic young priests in former Czechoslovakia. Beyond that, however, director Ivan Ostrochovský has a cool, icy style that draws the viewer into the material. These young priests are angry that the higher-ups are cooperating with the state, effectively suppressing religious freedom, so they turn to small acts of rebellion with serious ramifications. This clash of values effectively turns the young priests into unlikely noir heroes—taciturn and desperate, they want injustice in a corrupt system, not unlike the private investigators and detectives that might be played by Bogart or Mitchum. The realities of life behind the Iron Curtain limit the outcomes for these young men, so Servants is ultimately about the freedom in the choices they make. Single tickets for the AFI EU Film Showcase are available at afieu.eventive.org. The film is available to stream from Dec. 13–20. $13.