Servants. 2020. Slovakia/Romania/Czech Republic/Ireland. Directed by Ivan Ostrochovský. In Slovak with English subtitles. 80 min.
Slovak filmmaker Ivan Ostrochovský turns a politically fraught moment in his nation’s history into a spare, tense morality tale that moves like a thriller. Set in totalitarian Czechoslovakia in 1980, Servants takes place at a Catholic seminary that is being put under increasing pressure by the ruling Communist party to fall in line and for its students to essentially act as informants for any nonconformist behavior; meanwhile its head priest has become an easy target for blackmail. Ostrochovský tells his story of mounting anxiety through the eyes of two conflicted novitiates just arrived at school, Michal (Samuel Polakovic) and Juraj (Samuel Skyva), and shoots in a pristine, high-contrast black-and-white that gives his film the sense of a constant waking nightmare.