Jan Švankmajer (born September 4, 1934) is an internationally acclaimed and influential Czech animator and film director. His works are often surreal and make use of live-action, cut-outs, stop-motion, claymation and puppet animation. He has both made short films and full length films.
Švankmajer works within national Czech(oslovakian) traditions such as fairy tales, puppet theatres and the surreal stories of Franz Kafka and Karel Capek. His films are often strange, dark and disturbing, but also have a Dark Comedy side to them. Still, they are highly original and the creativity is impressive. Because Švankmajer worked under the Communist regime his films remained unknown in the West until the 1980s. Even worse, the government banned him in 1972 from making films, and many of his later films were suppressed.
Since then, Švankmajer has been discovered and praised by film and animation fans alike. People like Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton and The Brothers Quay have been influenced by his work. His best known film is probably "Alice" (1988), which has become a cult classic and was reviewed by Oancitizen for Brows Held High. Among his films are:
- "Dimensions Of Dialogue" (1982)
- "Alice" (1988)
- "Faust" (1994)
- "Conspirators Of Pleasure" (1996)
- "Little Otik" (2000)
- "Lunacy" (2005)
- "Surviving Life" (2010)
This animator/director work includes examples of:
- Alice in Wonderland: He adapted the story for his film "Alice" (1988)
- Animate Inanimate Object: The director often animates lifeless things or objects, especially animal skeletons and stuffed animals.
- Anthropomorphic Food: In the short "Meat Love" (1989), two pieces of meat romantically dance with each other, but are cooked anyway in the end.
- Big Eater (and Extreme Omnivore):
- The two customers in the "Lunch" segment of "Food" are so starved that they eat everything in their vicinity.
- Little Otik in "Little Otik"
- Big Lipped Alligator Moment
- Bizarre Taste in Food: The central theme of the short "Food".
- Body Horror: Švankmajer often makes strange new biological creations in his stop motion animation of skeletons.
- Deranged Animation
- Down the Rabbit Hole: Alice is a most deranged and incomprehensible adaptation with its stop-motion animation and mostly silent script.
- Eaten Alive: A frequent theme.
- Eating Shoes: Two customers in a restaurant in "Food" start eating everything in their vicinity, including their own shoes, because their waiter refuses to take their order.
- Eat the Camera: Švankmajer often use close-ups of human mouths, mostly when they are eating something or when they are narrating a story.
- Everything Is Trying to Kill You: Various things (puppets, stuffed animals, animal skeletons and even socks) are trying to catch Alice in "Alice" (1988).
- Faust: He adapted the story for his film "Faust".
- Hair-Raising Hare: The White Rabbit in "Alice" is a stuffed animal that literally comes alive! Near the end of the film it turns out he is the Queen's executioner!
- I Ate What??: In his short "Food", characters eat various things that in reality are unedible.
- Kids Are Cruel: The little girl in "Little Otik" allows a huge tree monster to eat a pedophilic old man who lives in her apartment and the adoptive human parents of Otik.
- Marionette Motion: Various objects are animated in an often eerily unnatural way.
- Mouth Cam: The unlucky people eaten by Otik in "Little Otik".
- Stop Motion
- Surreal Horror
- Uncanny Valley: The way he makes lifeless objects come alive is chillingly uncanny!