Sílení – LUNACY – The Dungeon Review!

LunacyI recently reviewed “Little Otik” which I enjoyed very much and decided I should check out the directors other work. This Jan Svankmajer film focuses more on the horror. In fact, it is based on two Edgar Allan Poe stories and the works of the Marquis de Sade.

Before the film begins Svankmajer, under some really weird lighting introduces his film. I thought I would include the entire dialogue as it isn’t often you get to hear from the director themselves prior to watching a film. In the middle of the speech he pauses to watch a piece of meat crawl across the floor. The meat is a major theme, but I’ll tell you more about that later.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, what you are about to see is a horror film with all the degeneracy peculiar to that genre. It is not a work of art. Today, art is all but dead anyway. In its place is a kind of trailer for the reflection of the face of Narcissus. Our film may be regarded as an infantile tribute to Edgar Allen Poe, from whom I’ve borrowed a number of motifs. And to the Marquis de Sade, to whom the film owes its blasphemy and subversiveness. The subject of the film is essentially
an ideological debate about how to run a lunatic asylum. Basically, there are two ways of managing such an institution, each equally extreme. One encourages absolute freedom. The other, the old-fashioned, well tried method of control and punishment. But there is also a third one, that combines and exacerbates the very worst aspects of the other two. And that is the madhouse we live in today.”

The film opens with our main character having a nightmare. He is fighting two bald headed orderlies who are trying to get him into a straightjacket. Making a considerable racket, management has busted down the door to find him still agitated and the room in shambles. A slap in the face wakes him from his ordeal. The next day a Marquis offers to pay for the damages. He is invited to join him for breakfast and excepts his offer to travel with him. At the marquis estate he is a witness to a black mass which so offends his christian sensibilities that he confronts the man’s blasphemy. Among other peculiar events
he is invited to try some “preventative therapy”. He is enchanted by a nurse at the asylum and has himself voluntarily committed. When he learns that the original director and his staff have been tarred and feathered and locked in the basement he conspires with his nurse love to set them free. This well meaning gesture may be the catalyst for making his worst nightmare a reality.

In between the action of the plot noted above there are stop motion animated sequences of meat. That is correct; animated meat. Eyeballs, tongues, brains etc. Frisky meat frolicking about furniture, cow skulls, and through mud, often mimicking the actions of the human characters. Weird? You bet! Rather unappetizing too I might add. I eagerly anticipated these segments, each one set to some rather twisted music. Are we all just pieces of meat blindly following the leader? The political theme is strong. The two institution approaches can be paralleled to Conservatism and Liberalism. There is a strong
anti-christian theme here also. The “black mass” scene is deliciously biting. The film has a retro quality that reminded me of exploitation films from the 70’s. The performances are excellent by all the cast, particularily by Jan Triska who plays the Marquis de Sade. The film lost a bit of ground with me, as it runs nearly two hours and does have some unneccessary lag time. Some scenes became repetitive which dulled their impact to some extent. This aside, this is a wonderfully warped, unique piece of cinema that is definitely worth a viewing.

Tomorrow’s review will be Roger Corman’s THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH starring Vincent Price.

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Jan Svankmajer

Starring: Pavel Liska, Jan Triska, Anna Geislerová, Jaroslav Dusek, Martin Huba, Pavel Nový, Stano Danciak and Jirí Krytinár

9 Responses to “Sílení – LUNACY – The Dungeon Review!”

  1. hagiblog Says:

    Yeah, you had me when you said the director pauses to watch a piece of meat crawl across the floor. I’ve gotta see this just for that fact alone.

    • goregirl Says:

      It warms my twisted heart to know there are others out there that can appreciate animated meat! I am loving this Jan Svankmajer guy! He has two other films I’m hoping to check out soonish called FAUST and ALICE.

  2. hagiblog Says:

    How could anyone not love animated meat! HAHA! I’m gonna have to keep looking for this one and hopefully you’ll get to see the other films as well so I can hear if they’re worth it or not.

  3. Dan North Says:

    Great film! I saw it recently, but I’d recommend that if you want more Svankmajer goodness you should go back to his short films – they’re extremely concentrated doses of his special brand of groesquerie, and I think you’ll love them.

    • goregirl Says:

      I can’t believe it took me this long to finally see a Svankmajer film….I will definitely look for the shorts.

  4. Cernunnos Trismegistus Says:

    @ goregirl

    He has far more than two other films. Not only is there Conspirators of Pleasure (the feature length he made in between Faust and Little Otik) but there’s an entire back catalog of 26 excellent short films, which, in my opinion, surpass all of his feature length output. The best way to experience them is BFI’s three disc set of his complete restored short films, but you’d have to order it from the UK and use a non-regional player (or else crack the code on a regular one). The best option in the U.S. is Kino’s Collected Short’s Vol 1 &2 and The Ossuary and Other Tales, but these are not the greatest quality and are still missing a few prominent shorts.

    It’s also worth noting that Svankmajer is working on his final film right now, Surviving Life (Theory and Practice). It’ll be interesting to see how it looks since he’s supposedly working with some innovative animation techniques, but moreover, his wife Eva who did most of the artwork and production design on his films died in 2005 (shortly before Lunacy premiered).

    • Thanks for the excellent information Cernunnos Trismegistus! Since my reviews of Lunacy and Little Otik I’ve now seen Alice (still haven’t seen Faust however). I thoroughly enjoy his work, and eagerly anticipate ‘Surviving Life’. I will definitely try to get my hands on one those short collections you recommended, it will probably be the Kino short collection though.

  5. […] find a trailer for Surviving Life…check out my reviews for Svankmajer’s Little Otik and Lunacy […]

  6. […] (1988) Faust (1994) Conspirators of Pleasure (1996) Little Otik (2000) Lunacy (2005) Surviving Life […]

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