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The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984)

In Prague, a professorial puppet, with metal pincers for hands and an open book for a hat, takes a boy as a pupil. First, the professor empties fluff and toys from the child's head, leaving... See full summary »
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In Prague, a professorial puppet, with metal pincers for hands and an open book for a hat, takes a boy as a pupil. First, the professor empties fluff and toys from the child's head, leaving him without the top of his head for most of the film. The professor then teaches the lad about illusions and perspectives, the pursuit of an object through exploring a bank of drawers, divining an object, and the migration of forms. The child then brings out a box with a tarantula in it: the professor puts his "hands" into the box and describes what he feels. The boy receives a final lesson about animation and film making; then the professor gives him a brain and his own open-book hat. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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1984 (UK)  »

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Edited into Tales of the Brothers Quay (1987) See more »

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12 January 2014 | by (Onomichi, 1953) – See all my reviews

If you're into film, you're most likely familiar with Stephen and Timothy Quay as well as Jan Švankmajer. Remarkably talented stop-motion animators, they are also distinctly different and for that reason alone worth seeing together.

This film is easy to see as a mere acknowledgment, but it's more than that. Švankmajer definitely features in the film as the strangely madcap creator of illusions in his cabinet; the ambiguity then arises from the fact the boy, to me at least, is the one who explores the world and has the pep and spiritedness. He's the one whose mind is explored, put on the table and ultimately stuffed with the things the creator wants.

When I think of Švankmajer, I think of a bleak reality that translates to socio-political commentary in filmic terms. The Brothers Quay, however, I associate with purely cinematic stories, their metaphorical film language not so much describing even allegorically any external condition but rather triggering solely visual reactions, much like Joyce's "Finnegans Wake", to which I already referred to in an earlier review. For me the Quay's speak more. Not that it has to be either or.


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