7.2/10
962
6 user 4 critic

Zvahlav aneb Saticky Slameného Huberta (1971)

Lewis Carroll's poem is read and followed by a free-form animated depiction of images and toys from childhood, repeatedly overturned by a live cat.

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In stop-time animation, a wardrobe moves through the countryside. It arrives in a house, a child's voice recites Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky," and various objects, such as toys and dolls, move about, disintegrate, and play out archetypal scenes. Like Carroll's verse, the images are at once familiar and unfamiliar. A child's play suit, hanging in the wardrobe, becomes the adventure's protagonist. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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wardrobe | toy | cat | childhood | doll | See All (18) »


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21 February 2015 (Japan)  »

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Jabberwocky  »

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Jabberwocky in Academia
12 July 2010 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

I understand avid Carroll fans and parents of young children might be disappointed in this film since it seemingly has so little to do with the Jabberwocky poem. But from an art/film theory perspective this film is brilliant. Knowing that this is not a narrative, but a semi- experimental stop motion short animation before watching it might help people critique it by its own standards.

There's been a recent surge in considering children's literature, fairy tales, and fables in regards to contemporary social anthropology. I personally study this through visual arts but it's very relevant for scholars varying from gender studies to linguistics. Reading authors like Carroll and relating its historical context to contemporary studies is the sort of thing I geek out on. Svankmajer, through some incredible stop motion animation, has certainly veered off the original poem. In doing so he's developed not a narrative, but a bazaar world that is unsettling and repetitive.

Part of the original appeal of the Jabberwocky poem (and much of Carroll's writing) was that he used so many gibberish words. They allowed for ideas of different or parallel worlds. The Jabberwocky is often discussed as a personal foe, what we most fear, and the vorpal sword is the tool by which we overcome that fear -- if indeed we do overcome it. This broad notion means that the jabberwocky doesn't have to be a dragon or a monster, it can be public speaking or a fear of rejection. In the case of Svankmajer's film, childhood itself is scary.

The content of the film may be a problem for children viewers. I particularly find the blade dancing in the table cloth and eventually stabbing itself quite "adult". And there are indeed savage notions of dolls eating other dolls. But this isn't meant to be a kids film. It's *visually* beautiful but its subjects are entirely uncomfortable, dark, and bordering on morbid. Just as traditional fairy tales were quite gruesome, Svankmajer is returning to the horror of a childhood nursery -- even if the horrors are in the imagination. Ideas of dolls and objects coming to life are common themes in children's stories, from the Nutcracker to the Velveteen Rabbit. Children seem to intuitively imbue these items with life of their own. As adults we find it creepy, disturbing, haunting, and warped. Stop animation is a very effective visual display of this imagination. The repetition in the toys and their keenness to destroy each other is very un-childlike. It's far more similar to the harsh monotony of adult life. Other interpretations of the film discuss it as quite angsty -- the line in the maze trying to break free and once it does it scribbles all over the portrait of the old man (the authority figure) and then exits out the window and on to freedom. I'm not sure I fully agree with this reading of the film, but it's one of many ideas to consider.

I admit that it's relationship to lewis Carroll is a tad nebulous but its significance in animation and visual technique is overt. I'm approaching this as an academic not as a parent, but I think the film is pretty damn amazing.


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