Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Jan Svankmajer

Jan Svankmajer - 'down in the cellar'

'One of the great Czech filmmakers, JAN SVANKMAJER was born in 1934 in Prague where he still lives. He trained at the Institute of Applied Arts from 1950 to 1954 and then at the Prague Academy of Performing Arts (Department of Puppetry). He soon became involved in the Theatre of Masks and the famous Black Theatre, before entering the Laterna Magika Puppet Theatre where he first encountered film. In 1970 he met his wife, the surrealist painter Eva Svankmajerova, and the late Vratislav Effenberger, the leading theoretician of the Czech Surrealist Group, which Svankmajer joined and of which he still remains a member.

Svankmajer made his first film in 1964 and for over thirty years has made some of the most memorable and unique animated films ever made, gaining a reputation as one of the world's foremost animators, and influencing filmmakers from Tim Burton to The Brothers Quay. His brilliant use of claymation reached its apotheosis with the stunning 1982 film DIMENSIONS OF DIALOGUE. In 1987 Svankmajer completed his first feature film, ALICE, a characteristically witty and subversive adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, and with the ensuing feature films FAUST, CONSPIRATORS OF PLEASURE and his newest film LITTLE OTIK (OTESANEK) Svankmajer has moved further away from his roots in animation towards live-action filmmaking, though his vision remains as strikingly surreal and uncannily inventive as ever.'

The most convincing piece of research found so far is by Jan Svankmajer he is well known for his weird a wild filmography, from full feature animation to shorts films, the short which is of particular interest to me is ‘down in the cellar’. It depicts an innocent young girl with typical child like characteristics blond pony tail hair in a dress holding her basket. The whole short has a strange use of sound an extremely harsh loud sounds are perceived opening of the film something else that draws your attention is the ambient noise, I feel that these sounds are designed to tap into the human senses giving the audience a feeling of unease adding to the disturbing content further also no additional music is played like the other 1900 full films.

We see things from the girls prospective, the camera is right up in her face which is out of the ordinary putting the audience closer to the action. The kind of recordings I have produced contains the aspect this film holds. I like how the film illustrates perfectly the range of what I’d like to achieve with my animation. At the end of the short the girl drops the potatoes back down the stairs into the cellar where she had collected them from and a cycle like approach occurs, perhaps this is something I could look into.

Key scenes with strong tones and contrast.

'A crafty alchemist, Svankmajer has pursued many styles: live action, clay modeling, puppets, traditional animation, stop-frame special effects and object collages, breathing life into vegetables, toys, rocks, and trees. An influence on filmmakers from Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam to the Brothers Quay (who made the short "The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer" in his honor), Svankmajer has never been completely comfortable with the label of animator: "For me, story comes before technique. I use animation only when I need it to bring alive certain objects through metamorphosis."

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