Friday, July 23, 8:30pm, Durham Town Hall
Czech Film Rebels
Jabberwocky, 13 min, 1971
Dimensions of Dialogue, Part 1, 6 min, 1982
Food: Parts 1 and 2, 12 min, 1992
Sedmikrasky (Daisies), 73 minutes, 1966
The Friday event promises brilliantly surreal, provocative, dazzling, and at times shocking examples of the Czech film avant-garde. Svankmajer and Chytilova are two visionaries driven by a fantastic imagination and a sociopolitical conscience. Both raise questions about the meaning of life in unusual ways; both remain committed to the themes of dream, revolt and freedom. Their aesthetic is deeply rooted in a lifetime spent behind the iron curtain and observing the futility of human experience.
A fetishistic concern with food and the act of eating underpins the selected films by Jan Svankmajer which span three decades of his bizarrely beautiful, unsettling and Kafkaesque cinematic universe. For Svankmajer, eating is a symbol of human aggressiveness. This philosophy is most concretely expressed in the trilogy Food and brilliantly executed through live action and stop-motion animation techniques.
Factual Dialogue, the first segment of Dimensions of Dialogue, bears witness to humankind’s intolerance to otherness. Three Arcimboldo-like creatures—each representing a different aspect of society and life—take turns devouring and disassembling each other, gradually reducing each other to bland copies.
Jabberwocky is a dreamlike, unsettling adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s surreal poem from 1872. In this absurd theatre of childhood everything is in flux and perpetual motion. The film, which champions the spirit of play, rebellion and disorder, is based on the notion that the education of children is a vicious inculcation of values that pacifies girls and makes warmongering imperialists out of boys.
Gender roles, food, morality, games and anarchy are also key motifs in
Vera Chytilova’s outrageous slapstick comedy, the cult film Daisies. Two
uninhibited and spoiled young women, Marie I and Marie II, turn against
a decaying and oppressive society in a madcap flurry of pranks and material
destruction. The depraved heroines justify their socially unaccepted actions
because “the world has gone bad” therefore they have to be “bad” too. While
the two Maries attack social norms, Chytilova’s cinematic tour de farce
relentlessly attacks modes of representation, film conventions and forms.
Dadaist montage, jump cuts, a riot of colours, animated flash frames and
other visual effects enliven and comment upon the anarchic escapades of
the film’s heroines. A classic of world cinema, Daisies continues to dazzle,
provoke, challenge and entertain.