Archive for Jan Svankmajer


Posted in Czech Republic, movies with tags , , , , , , on February 26, 2012 by goregirl

I picked up a Jan Svankmajer short film collection from the library yesterday. I was so inspired by its awesomeness that I created two slideshows in celebration of Mr. Svankmajer! There is no one quite like him. Svankmajer’s delightfully demented combination of live action and stop-motion animation is an absolute fucking treat! It makes me sad he only has six feature length films. I highly recommend checking out any Svankmajer film; and if you can get your hands on any of his short film collections you will be the richer for it. Below is a list of Svankmajer’s films with links for the ones I have reviewed. Sadly, I don’t own any Svankmajer film soundtracks so music is courtesy of Jefferson Airplane and XTC.

Alice (1988)
Faust (1994)
Conspirators of Pleasure (1996)
Little Otik (2000)
Lunacy (2005)
Surviving Life (2010)

The Collected Shorts of Jan Svankmajer: The Early Years Vol. 1
The Collected Shorts of Jan Svankmajer: The Later Years Vol. 2
The Complete Short Films

White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane w/images from Jan Svankmajer’s Alice.
Svankmajer’s Alice is the cat’s ass of the Carroll interpretations. Granted White Rabbit was a bit of an obvious choice here but I think it perfectly compliments Svankmajer’s wonderfully trippy, warped and whimsical vision.

XTC – Senses Working Overtime featuring the films of Jan Svankmajer.
The whimsical, weird and wonderfully wicked world of Jan Svankmajer! Svankmajer’s mix of stop-motion animation and live action masterpieces are a feast for the eyes and an assault on the senses! I recommend every last film in this slideshow. My apologies to those living in Montenegro and Serbia; this video is blocked in those locations.

VIFF – SURVIVING LIFE (2010) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Czech Republic, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2010 by goregirl

I could not believe how empty the theatre was for Surviving Life, my third film of The Vancouver International Film Festival. Granted it was a Tuesday afternoon matinee, I’m sure it was a much fuller theatre for the Saturday evening showing. Jan Svankmajer is one of the most original film makers alive today who uses both animation and live action to create unique, surreal and often macabre images to compliment his imaginative stories. The Czech born director has been creating his masterpieces since the 60’s and has made a number of short films but very few feature length films, which makes Surviving Life an extra big deal. While I happened to think the man is brilliant, his unconventional style won’t be to everyone’s taste. However, if you’re open to the experience you might just dig the wonderfully weird world of Svankmajer as much as I do.

While awake the middle-aged Eugene lives a simple life with his wife of many years. But Eugene lives a double life when he closes his eyes. He becomes obsessed with a reoccurring dream of a beautiful young woman. He begins seeing a psychoanalyst, not in hopes of ending the dreams, but in fear that the lovely lady may disappear. The doctor helps to interpret his dreams as Eugene attempts living life in both worlds.

Remember collages from grade school art class? Cutting pictures out of magazines and gluing them to bristol board? If you can imagine a much slicker version then you have some idea of what Surviving Life looks like. The film uses photo cut-outs of the actors, which Svankmajer jokes during the films introduction, was due to a lack of funds and saved on catering. I’ve posted reviews for Jan Svankmajer’s Little Otik and Lunacy, which aren’t straight up horror by any means, but certainly have enough elements to sneak it by. Surviving Life has none of the macabre images of a lot of Svankmajer’s other work, but it certainly does not lack in the weird or surreal. People, animals and objects are often disproportionate in size to their environments. There are naked women with chicken heads, human heads on snakes, portraits of Jung and Freud kicking and punching each other, giant apples rolling out doors; all brought to life against black and white photographs of Czech buildings and an assortment of other backdrops. Occasionally the real world and the dream world collide making for some additional weirdness. Although the trip is certainly surreal and strange the narrative is quite coherent and in the end Eugene is simply unlocking what was buried deep in his subconscious. Within the world of dreams anything is possible and the same can be said for the medium of animation. In the world of animation you can be as wild and over the top as your heart desires and it compliments Svankmajer’s material perfectly. Surviving Life is a whimsical, weird and dazzling visual feast for the eyes.

Surviving Life has been called a psychoanalytical comedy. But, according to Svankmajer, it is not about psychoanalysis and it is a comedy that no one will laugh at. It may not be about psychoanalysis, but it is certainly a major theme through the film. Eugene’s psychoanalyst plays an important role in the film and Eugene visits her office often. She has portraits of Jung and Freud on her wall that becomes animated in approval or disapproval of her interpretations. She discovers that Eugene’s dream girl is his anima (his female side). The viewer understands the nature of Eugene’s dreams before he does, but regardless, the final revelation is still extremely satisfying. In fact, every aspect of Surviving Life is extremely satisfying.

Surviving Life is a cleverly written film about aging, love, sex, childhood trauma, psychoanalysis and dreams. Svankmajer’s imaginative presentation of one man’s psychosis is both thoughtful and humorous. Surviving Life is an extraordinary and immensely entertaining film. Bravo Mr. Svankmajer! Bravo! Highest of recommendations!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Jan Svankmajer

Starring: Václav Helsus, Klára Issová, Zuzana Kronerová, Daniela Bakerova, Emília Doseková, Marcel Nemec, Jan Pocepický, Jana Olhová, Pavel Nový, Karel Brozek

Sílení – LUNACY – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Czech Republic, horror, movies with tags , , on June 8, 2009 by goregirl

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

Otesánek – LITTLE OTIK – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Czech Republic, horror, movies with tags , , on May 30, 2009 by goregirl

little otikI wasn’t really familiar with Svankmajer’s work but when I read the back of the cover and caught a glimpse of Little Otik I knew I had to give it a go. Love it or hate it, it is unlikely you will see anything quite like this film.

A couple consumed with having a child learn they cannot due to infertility on both sides. The husband is seeing babies everywhere and the wife is grief-strikened and depressed 24 hours a day. To help take his wife’s mind off of the business, they purchase a cottage to visit on weekends. The property needs much work and one day while uprooting a tree he gets an idea. As a token and a bit of a lark he carves the uprooted tree into a baby. She hungrily takes the baby from him, lays it on a blanket and clothes and diapers it. Much to hubby’s horror she treats the wood stump as her own child. The insanity is only beginning, as he eventually walks in on the wood stump alive and suckling on his wife’s teet. To complicate issues further, the little guy has quite the insatiable appetite.

This is one fractured little fairytale! More Grimm Brothers than Disney, it is a truly twisted tale that is definitely not for the kiddies. It is a live action feature with stop motion animation sequences scattered throughout. The characters, although actual actors almost seemed animated themselves. The way it was filmed gave me the impression I was a witness to someone’s actual dream (or nightmare). The choice of cast could not have been better. The perfomances are excellent and even the secondary players are perfect in their roles. The wife is absolutely mad and the husband knows this but cannot quite bring himself to deal with it. He spends much of the picture ranting and raving at the lunacy of it all. The whacky couple are nicely complimented by a parade of strange supporting characters. Among them, a little girl obsessed with sex and babies and a pedophile senior citizen. My husband commented, everyone in this building must be sniffing the same glue. Indeed, the characters imagine seeing some truly bizarre images. The first scene is our husband looking down on a fishmonger from a gynecologists office window. Instead of taking fish from the tank he is scooping up babies in his net and wrapping them up in newspaper. And of course there is little Otik. He’s a freaking tree stump. An ugly, crying gnarly tree stump. At one point the mother scolds her husband for not varnishing her son enough. There is a body count, but I wouldn’t neccessarily recommend this to hardcore horror fans. This is for anyone who tastes run towards the strange and unusual. My only complaint is I would have liked to have seen more of the stop motion animation. The film isn’t going to be for everyone as it is definitely odd. It is delightfully demented and at times even disturbing but absolutely entertaining. It is a feast for the eyes and an assault on the senses. I will definitely be checking out the other films of Jan Svankmajer. Highly recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 4.5/5

Directed By: Jan Svankmajer

Starring: Veronika Zilková, Jan Hartl, Jaroslava Kretschmerová, Pavel Nový, Kristina Adamcová, Dagmar Stríbrná, Zdenek Kozák, Gustav Vondracek, Arnost Goldflam and Jitka Smutná