Švankmajer: Shorts 2 1968-1972

This second selection of shorts really blew me away. Maybe I could put some of that down to my own headspace, I was feeling rather spaced out, but the sheer variety of techniques and the quality of execution was superb. I’m so lucky to be seeing these all in the cinema, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.

A Quiet Week in the House was hands down my favourite and whilst I am well looking forward to seeing Dimensions of Dialogue and Conspirators of Pleasure on the big screen, this short may end up being my overall fave.

It begins with a man in camoflage crouching by the side of a road. He carefully makes his way to a house, gets inside and puts the electricity on. He takes a hand drill and makes a hole in the door, then peeps inside. So far, everything has been in black and white, with lots of background noise (cars etc). Suddenly, in deep silence, we see what the guy is watching through the hole. In colour, objects come in and out of focus, forming abstract shapes. The lack of noise threw me and the animation is wonderful. The inner life of objects indeed!

After a few minutes, the show is at an end, so back in black and white, the man lies down, turns the light off and sleeps. An alarm clock wakes him up then he repeats the pattern – a new hole drilled in the door, a new show, then sleep. He does this for a week, crossing off the days, then he wires up the house to explode and runs off. The end.

It’s a tour de force, I was startled by the beauty of animated shelves and screws. There are no subtitles throughout. No words are necessary.

I was left reeling. Beyond that, the other shorts were great in their own way.

[spanish subs]

Don Juan is great, featuring a really evil character who murders lots of people. Watching puppets murder each other is, I must admit, quite good fun.

[no subs]

The Ossuary is a strange piece, it’s a ten minute exploration of an ossuary, ie a church decorated with bones, 50,000 of them it was said. There’s no subs in the youtube clip above but it doesn’t really matter, this is more of a mood piece, with music.

Jabberwocky is the other short I want to comment on. This is first engagement of Svank and Lewis Carroll (followed of course by the feature length Alice). It’s incredible, really rather peculiar. The political point it makes about freedom of expression is emphatic. You just have to watch it really, I’m going to stop there…

The list:

Picnic with Weismann (Aus 1968. 13min.)

A Quiet Week in the House (Cz 1969. 13min.)

Don Juan (Cz 1970. 30min.)

The Ossuary (Cz 1970. 10 min.)

Jabberwocky (Cz 1971. 12min.)

Leonardo’s Diary (Cz-It 1972. 10min.).



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