Jan Svankmajer and his delightfully disturbing films

The surreal films of Jan Svankmajer

Emilia is an MFA candidate, performance/theater artist, object maker, puppeteer, interpretive dancer, writer, budding video artist and creator of imaginary realities.

As my first post on the PLAY gallery blog, I thought I'd share one of my newest obsessions: the films of Jan Svankmajer. Many years ago (as in, perhaps, 2001) I had the pleasure of watching one of Jan's more recent feature films, 'Little Otik', which he made in 2000. The film tells the story of a childless couple who end up adopting a tree root that vaguely resembles a child. Through pampering, the tree root slowly comes to life, growing and growing until horror ensues as he begins consuming anything and everything around him. A truly strange, surreal, amazing film. Highly recommended. At the time I watched it, I forgot the name of the film and who it was by, and only recently rediscovered it again.

Well, it turns out that 'Little Otik' is just one of many films by Jan Svankmajer that are more than just amusing. Born in Prague in 1934, where he still lives today, Jan Svankmajer attended the Institute of Applied Arts and later the Prague Academy of Performing Arts (Department of Puppetry). His career led him through involvement with the Theatre of Masks and Black Theatre, and later Laterna Magika Puppet Theatre, where he began working with film. Jan's films incorporate elements of animation and puppetry to create surreal, grotesque, gothic tales full of surprise and wonder, touching on the very absurdities of human existence.

Instead of me twisting my own words into a knot trying to describe the films, go ahead and see them yourself, if you haven't done so already! I've attached a favorite of mine, 'Food, Part 1&2', to this posting. You can find more on youtube and on his website:


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