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Feb 17, 2012 - Feb 25, 2012

The Films of Jan Svankmajer

Film retrospective of Jan Svankmajer at the Museum of the Moving Image.

“I don’t like the cartoon,” said the Czech animator Jan Svankmajer, “and I prefer to place my imaginary world into reality.” While Svankmajer’s films are dreamlike in tone, seemingly coming directly from his deepest imagination, they are also rooted in physical reality. Svankmajer (b. 1934) photographs household objects, including trash, food, furniture, and clocks, and often uses puppets as his main characters. His films are delightfully subversive, perhaps as a response to the oppressive nature of life in Czechoslovakia before the fall of the Iron Curtain. This selection of Svankmajer’s features and short films is presented with support from the Czech Center New York.

Friday, February 17, 7:00 p.m.
Dir. Jan Svankmajer. 1988, 86 mins. With Kristýna Kohoutová. Svankmajer’s feature film debut is one of his best-known films, a darkly surreal adaptation of the Lewis Carroll classic. A live actress stars as Alice, among a variety of stop-motion creatures made out of everything from fabric to raw meat. The result is a tactile and disturbing, yet strangely endearing, exploration into the darker side of a child’s imagination.

Shorts Program
Saturday, February 18, 3:00 p.m.
Jan Svankmajer’s short films range from absurdist to allegorical, filled with startling images that celebrate unrestrained imagination while satirizing the machinery of a repressive society. This selection was programmed by Irena Kovarova. Flat (Byt) 1968, 13 mins. The Garden (Zahrada) 1968, 19 mins. Jabberwocky 1971, 12 mins, Dimensions of Dialogue (Moznosti Dialogu) 1971, 12 mins. Darkness Light Darkness (Tma Svetlo Tma) 1990, 10 mins. 

Saturday, February 18, 6:00 p.m.
Dir. Jan Svankmajer. 1994, 97 mins. With Petr Cepek, Jan Kraus, Vladimír Kudla. Svankmajer’s Faust is an ordinary, inquisitive Everyman who, upon exiting a Prague subway station, is handed a map that draws him to his doom. Led to an abandoned theater he finds a copy of Goethe’s Faust, begins to read aloud, and unwittingly summons up a doppelgänger Mephistopheles who offers him everything his heart desires in return for his soul. Peopled with shape-changing demons and puppet-versions of Goethe’s characters, Svankmajer’s tour de force is hilarious, shocking, and utterly unforgettable.

Conspirators of Pleasure
Saturday, February 25, 3:00 p.m.
Dir. Jan Svankmajer. 1996, 75 mins. With Petr Meissel, Gabriela Wilhelmová, and Barbora Hrzánová. This bracing satire of bourgeois sexual morality follows a handful of oddball sexual fetishists as their lives and obsessions intertwine in different ways. A shopkeeper enjoys being caressed by robot arms while watching his favorite television news anchorwoman who likes having her toes sucked by fish. The film has been described as “Kafka, by way of David Cronenberg.”

Saturday, February 25, 6:00 p.m.
Dir. Jan Svankmajer. 2005, 123 mins. With Pavel Liska, Jan Tríska, Anna Geislerová, and Jaroslav Dusek. This unsettling horror film plunges us into the world of an insane asylum that is experimenting with two different approaches: one with absolute freedom, one with absolute tyranny. Through intense live-action puppetry and animation, it frighteningly asks who are the true lunatics—the patients in the asylum or those who run it.

More information and tickets




Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35 Avenue, Astoria


From: Feb 17, 2012
To: Feb 25, 2012


Czech Center is a coorganizer of the event

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