Moznosti dialogu (1983)
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The three parts, according to their titles, deal with different types of communication: discussion, discourse, and conversation. The theme is destruction resulting from interaction.
The first and most cryptic part is entitled Exhaustive Discussion, and it explores the interplay of three revolutions: the agricultural, industrial, and informational. Although the only one that is usually seen as a revolution is the industrial revolution, I believe that they are all revolutions in their own right for the changes that were implemented and their intermingling with one another had a significant global impact.
Materials are arranged in the shape of a human profile. There is one comprised of vegetables and grains, another of tools and machinery, and a third of writing and calculation materials. The first collision is between the face of agriculture and the face of industry which march towards one another, chomping hungrily, amidst triumphant battle-like music, which set the musical tone for the rest of the film. This continues a few more times, as each face's materials progressively break down into mush.
Eventually, these revolutions become an indistinguishable pastiche of food, machinery, and intellectual tools. What results from their regurgitations is a realistic clay face. Finally, instead of creating an opponent, it creates duplicates of itself, procreating alone. The idea is that through the amalgamation of these staples of our evolution we see ourselves as refined humans, although to progress we had to fight, coalesce. But does the end justify the means? Did the exhaustive discussion bring about progress or was something raw lost in the merging and streamlining of each unique form of sustenance? Of course, another more timely interpretation could be anti-socialist propaganda. Through the merging of separated industries, real people will emerge. It is inevitable that a battle will occur when people are divided and seen as mere faces of production. Thus, only through a cataclysm will humanity prevail as such. The fighting will later be replaced with a focus on procreation rather than toil.
The second and least cryptic part is entitled Passionate Discourse, and it explores the interplay of relationships in a literal manner. The type of relationship is what the multiple interpretations can be based upon. It could be a romantic relationship, however I am apprehensive about seeing as such because it seems too easy. Another likely option is that it is a creative collaboration expressed by the metaphor of a romantic relationship. As I wonder how this part could be speaking out like the others against Socialism, I know that the last interpretation I can muster up might be a stretch.
The romantic relationship theory works well enough to satisfy most people's curiosity. A man and a woman make love, a child is born, neither wants the responsibility, and their fighting leads them into a physical confrontation in which they destroy each other. A deeper look reveals that this could show us a creative endeavor gone wrong. Neither would like to claim the finished article, and in their disgust over creating it, forget all their original feelings in order to vent their frustrations. Or could it be that this is a metaphor for powers coming together with apparently similar interests, reveling in oneiric ideologies, what they see as their brilliance, and then when they realize they have created something that is apart from them, different, neither want to deal with it. They try to ignore it, and when they cannot, when it cries out for help they pass the buck to the other collaborator. Eventually, when they see they cannot rid themselves of the nuisance of the unexpected aftermath of their irresponsible political intimacy, they rage against each other until nothing-no one-is left.
The third seems the most likely because I must continue to consider the political problems roiling within the Czech Socialist Republic. In addition, the title adds a tone less indicative of love. Passionate Discourse signifies a formal yet emotional exchanging and debating of intellectual ideas. That sounds like politics to me.
The final piece, a middle-ground of oracularity, shows two male heads made of clay. It is called Factual Conversation.
The two busts begin by supplying each other with what the other needs. This continues smoothly with various combinations until they switch places. Then everything goes wrong and they do not supply each other with what is needed. They switch places a second time and unfortunately, each supply each other with the same thing. They then begin withering. By the end, they have both collapsed in exhaustion.
What is being said is that when people are assigned to take on tasks that others were fine doing to begin with, they will not be as successful, if at all. In trading places, harmony and, thus, productivity is lost. This relates to Socialist ideology because the state controls what a person does and does not do for work, negating the individual's talent or penchant for a particular task.
If you think harder and listen more intently, you will hear what is being whispered.
Regardless of the message, which could be viewed as somewhat simplistic in relation to Svankmajer's more engaging works - such as The Flat (1968), Jabberwocky (1971), Alice (1988) and Conspirators of Pleasure (1996) - it is the animation that remains the truly impressive factor in this film's overall design, with the director creating some wonderful characters and scenarios out of a variety of old, inanimate objects. If you are a fan of the bizarre, provocative and imaginative world that this particular filmmaker creates, then Dimensions of Dialog (1982) (or more fittingly, Possibilities of Dialog, given both the design and thematic subtext) should be required viewing.
The first is the longest, but at the same time the sequence that interested me the least. It starts with two strange creatures going against each other, one consists of fruit, the other mostly of metal. I assume it's a symbolism of nature vs. technology. The figures merge and the final result spits out a new creation, which goes against the result of the merger and so it goes on and on... You could probably analyze for hours the way the creatures keep looking after their transformations, but you'd almost have to watch the film in slow-motion to really catch all the details and at some point it just felt repetitive to me. The speed, so much happening in so little time, reminded me a bit of the works of current animator PES, although the style is obviously completely different.
The second appealed to me more. We see a male and a female creature falling in love and Svankmajer here depicts one of the most beautiful sequences of actual physical lovemaking I've ever seen in animation. Very well done. It's almost erotically stimulating. Unfortunately, the result separates the two and catastrophe ensues shortly afterward. The final part is a nice animated display of how communication works, how effortless things can be when you are on the same layers, but also how destructive the lack of congruence can be.
I am not sure how I interpret the fist one, which shows fruit devouring and regurgitating fruit turning into kitchen utensils doing the same thing and ending with writing paraphernalia repeating the process. My original thoughts were of progression; things that do not last very long, the fruit, to things that can be around for a time, but eventually rust or break, the utensils, to the written word, which if allowed to, can be around for hundreds of years.
The second short probably touched me more than the other two because of the way I interpreted it. It shows two clay figures, man and woman, and how at first are reluctant or hesitant of each other and then become passionate. As a consequence of this passion a third thing is created and how they deal or don't deal with it is so true of many humans today. The thought is not always there of the outcome nor having the mind to rule the will of desire strong enough to accept what has happened. The third depiction was in my opinion, a play on politics where you had these two heads more or less competing to see who could out maneuver the other. At first things seemed to be interchangeable but it became apparent that each had its' own individuality.
Over all it was a very interesting concept with just the score and the pictures as the dialogue and each viewer to interpret as they will.
Jan Svankmajer is an enlightening, funny and an intelligent director. His shorts are simply genius and entertaining. The most fascinating thing about his shorts is their meaning. All of the shorts are filled with metaphors, deep philosophy and psychology. It is great how Svankmajer can represent political and family type issues using simple objects or clay figures. It might take a while to understand what the artist really says, but one can certainly come up with a valid explanation. Most of his shorts are self-interpreted. Another words, a person A might understand it differently from person B. It was a tremendous watching experience.
The 12-minute long 'Moznosti dialogu / Dimensions of Dialogue' is divided into three distinct sections, entitled, respectively: "exhaustive discussion," "passionate discourse" and "factual conversation." In the first, a collection of heads created in the style of Giuseppe Arcimboldo's paintings sequentially devour each other and regurgitate the remains, eventually eliminating all variation and reducing the population to numerous copies of the single bland human. In the second, a clay couple dissolve into each other during the act of love, before quarreling over a remnant of leftover clay (suggestive of a child, most likely) and tearing each other into a frenzied pulp. In the third section, two elderly male clay heads protrude a selection of ordinary objects from their mouths (toothbrush and toothpaste; bread and spread; pencil and sharpener; shoe and shoelaces), eventually using them in every possible combination and withering themselves to fragments.
The stop-motion animation of 'Dimensions of Dialogue' is undoubtedly done very well, and the "exhaustive discussion" section has an iconic feel to it that has often been imitated. It was, however, quite repetitive, and there's only so many times that you can watch a Arcimboldo head devour another and spew forth its fragments before your interest starts to waver. The second section moves forward quite quickly, and, using the clay man and women, Svankmajer was able to convey very effectively the rage that each person was feeling, as they tore into each other's flesh with their fingernails. The third section, not unlike the first, repeated itself, I thought, one too many times, and I didn't think that so many reiterations were necessary to drive home the filmmaker's message. However, if I were to watch this film again, it would certainly be for the remarkable visuals, and I can say little to fault the wonderfully vibrant stop-motion animation.
Svankmejer's work is a rather brutal battle between his stupid ideas about society and his incredibly rich visual imagination. Here that battle is its most obvious. The `moral' is childish. The visuals are terrific. If you can stand the former, the latter is quite worth your time.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 4: Has some interesting elements.
What's the point of all these images? Who knows. One could try to analyze it - and probably get a headache from doing so - but I'd say that the real point is to get enthralled. Either way, this short flick truly has Svankmajer written all over it. You could be deaf and the whole thing would still be fascinating. So definitely "Czech" it out.