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This is the first and only Jan Svankmeyer movie I have ever seen, and
after viewing it I can't wait to see his others. Here, Svankmeyer
basically juxtaposes a staged showing of the play FAUST with the story
of the man who is kidnapped into playing Faust. As the film rolls on,
the character's story and the actor's story become more and more
indistinguishable. There are also a bunch of insane devil marionettes
and the whole thing has the vibe of a medieval Punch and Judy show.
Probably the main thing I liked about FAUST was the fact that, although it is a fairly surreal film, it doesn't go out of it's way to be strange for strangeness's sake [like the Czech film DAISIES or the Georgian REPENTANCE, though those are okay movies]. Sure, you have bizarre goings-on like a stop-motion fetus in a jar growing old and turning into a skull, but many of the details you thought were unrelated to the story all wrap up in a very pleasing manner.
Of course, not all of your questions will be answered. I still don't understand the significance of the theater sets versus real scenery, or why Faust sometimes appears in his costume and sometimes in his regular trench coat. But I'm glad I don't completely get it--I like a movie to provoke thought rather than explain everything outright.
Also, man, what's with the other comments saying this is an art-house flik, or only pretentious snobs will enjoy it? I work at a video store. We played FAUST on our TV just tonight, and at least ten customers were intrigued enough to stop what they were doing and watch it for a little while--far more people than when we played JERSEY GIRL the other day. Sure, FAUST is not for everybody, because not everybody likes unusual or even minorly challenging movies. Don't let the reverse-snobs scare you away.
Jan Svankmajer is one of the best animators of all time and one of the best artists of the 20th century. There is simply no one else making animation like this: disturbing, hilarious, dreamlike. "Faust" is one of the best films I have ever seen, combining the visual sensibility of Salvador Dali with the philosophical sensibility of Mikhail Bulgakov. Powerful, surreal, and more intelligent than any animation anywhere.
Faust embodies what it is to be Surreal. Svankmajer has captured the
essence of a dream in full form and put its application to the archetypal
story of Dr. Faustus.
The integration of live action, puppetry, and stop-motion animation is the work of a true genius/madman.
If you are looking for something to exercise the bizarre regions of the brain and the human imagination, WATCH THIS FILM. you shan't regret it.
"Faust" is a wonderful blend of real-time and stop-motion storytelling by
master of the surreal. An apparently ordinary everyman is led by curiosity
into a dilapidated building which turns out to be a strange blend of
alchemical laboratory, theater, and puppeteer's workshop. Suddenly, the
finds himself becoming the legendary Dr. Faust, selling his soul to the
devil in exchange for magical powers.
Jan Svankmajer is the true sorcerer here. He blends stage sets with real locations and seven-foot puppets with live actors, making magic of it all.
The film has been dubbed for English audiences, but there has perhaps never been a less obtrusive film dub. The voice performances are excellent and actually add to the surreal quality of the film.
Surrealism tends to fall in one of 2 categories:
(1) Random, confounding, absurd images best enjoyed under the influence of psychomorphic drugs
(2) Careful, structured, lucid themes augmented by unusual visuals, all of which is designed to raise our understanding beyond what is "real"
Or, I could also say that Surrealism tends to fall in one of 2 categories:
(1) Sucky movies
(2) Awesome movies
I'm happy to report that in both cases, this film is a #2. It can be compared with the masterpieces of Jean Cocteau (Orphee, Beauty & the Beast), or if you prefer the modern stuff it can be compared with Terry Gilliam's early work. Svankmajer has that same creative spirit, the same eye for the bizarre and yet the same intelligence in presentation that makes for great art. He also has a slightly disturbing edge.
This is a great film for profound cinephiles as well as casual filmgoers in the mood for something completely different. This isn't simply a masturbatory showcase of "how much weird & pointless stuff we can throw at you", the way many famous Surrealists operate. Rather, this roots itself with a solid, philosophical foundation & excellent dialogue and takes it to the next level with creative visuals. Svankmajer has a fantastic sense of humour, too, so you never get the feeling that he's some pompous, pretentious jerk showing off what he can do with a camera.
This movie's hallmark, as with much of Svankmajer's work, is the fantastic use of puppetry. It can be both comedic and chilling, and it definitely puts you into a mind-warping state of mind which is perfect for a tale of this scope.
I'm rating this a 10/10, and you can see by my voting history that I don't give 10s casually. This is truly a fantastic work.
An important note: You should really read Marlowe's "Dr. Faustus" before watching this movie. And be sure it's the MARLOWE version (1604), not the Goethe version (1806) titled "Faust". Yes, the title of this movie is misleading.
The classic tale of Faust, the man who sold his soul to the devil, is given a strange twist. In the film, an ordinary guy finds a map on a subway which leads him to an abandoned theater. He chants the phrases which cause the devil to appear. The devil offers him anything he wants in exchange for his soul. Then we are treated to creepy marionette puppets that act out the play. Czech animator Jan Svankmajer is most notorious for his nightmarish stop motion film "Alice"(1988). In "Faust" he also combines his usual elements of live actors, puppets and clay animation. Most memorable is the creepy baby made of clay. Svankmajer creates his own bizarre world that is creepy yet often humorous. So if you enjoy surrealism, stop motion animation or any film that is in a category of its own; you should definitely see Jan Svankmajer's unique vision of "Faust".
This is why I watch films. Every now and then I stumble across
beautiful strange, unique films! Grotesque, macabre but with a very
weird sense of humour present at all times, this stop-motion animation
/ puppet & real actors film has to be one of the strangest films. I am
so happy to own it! Actually in the beginning I was not quite linking
to the character Faust, as he was too alienated in whatever happened -
but while it went on, it began to make sense in a deeper level than the
simple surrealism I had thought in the first place.
For all people interested in strange, weird films, black humour & fed up with the trash Hollywood serves us, then go for this spectacular film!
The first time I saw 'Faust', I was instantly compelled, and completely indulged in it's content, framing, sound, atmosphere..if you are a Svankmajer fan, or just finding out about his work, this is one film that I recommend owning. Svankmajers 'Faust' has become one of my number 1 favorite films, of all time. I have watched it more than 1,000 times over the last 5 years, and still adore every moment of it. Definitely touches upon dissimilar content than 'Alice'. And I do think that it may be difficult for some viewers to get use to its random, and experimental aspects of sound and imagery. I do wish that I could find the Czech Language version..or does that not exist? I have the English language version on DVD and VHS...does anyone know if there is an original undubbed copy available somewhere?
Jan Svankajer's feature film follow up to his masterpiece Alice is a rather free interpretation of the classic and often referenced tale of Faust. Like in 'Alice', Svankmajer approaches the story in a unique and original fashion, both conceptually and visually - as usual, he mixes various genres and art forms, combining live actors, puppetry and claymotion. Faust is sometimes an ordinary man playing the role of Faust, sometimes a puppet and sometimes Faust himself. The film shows Svankmajer's brilliant creativity and imagination, and his fantastic and unique stop-motion technique, at their best; even though I find it only slightly inferior to 'Alice' (the overdubbed voices are again annoying, but much better than on 'Alice'). It has a wonderful surreal and dark atmosphere, some brilliant character designs and even a couple of scenes that are quite entertaining (like the old man who collects legs). I adore the way Mephistopheles turns himself into a clay mirror of Faust himself, the head-changing puppet which is both devil and angel, and the delicate transformation of Faust turning from man to puppet and back. If for nothing else, then for the visual side by itself Faust is well worth seeing. If you're a fan of Svankmajer, or are interested in classic animation and puppetry, buy Faust now.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is not a movie that strikes the first time viewer. It asks for
some former knowledge. It mainly relies on the epic Faust by Johann
Wolfgang Goethe, but since monologue and dialog have been very rare in
this one, symbols are probably easier to read if the book has been
previously read. For example, the empty egg in the bread which actually
contains one's soul according to pagan mythology could be overlooked.
This is as far as the script is concerned. The directory, however, is done by one of the greatest and most influential stop-motion-animation masters and puppeteers, greatly appreciated by the well known Quay Brothers (see The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer) as well as the others. This means that very imaginative and expressive combination of animation, string puppets theater and acting is expected.
When one thinks about the story of Faust, the question that often pops in one's head is what would be the price on my soul. Faust traded his soul for the absolute understanding which in the end he does not receive. However, the moment of gaining control over his destiny is shown so simply and yet so powerfully the moment of detaching strings, the question that remains is who was pulling Faust's strings in the moment he decided to sell his soul. That was the decision he made former to his strings detaching. The movie swarms with this sort of fractions that trigger bursts of reflections and that's why this movie won't put you to sleep. On the other hand, if you are sleepy go watch something else, this movie deserves attention.
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