A man takes up residence with a mysterious marquis and is soon persuaded to enter into an asylum for preventative therapy. Things are not what they seem, and the marquis may be even more sinister than what the young man may've predicted.
Set in a crumbling black-and-white futuristic metropolis, void of creativity and color, the city is traversed by The Gold Sparrow and her nefarious side kick, The Ring Leader. Together they... See full summary »
A sarcastic story about a thief who becomes the victim of his own victims. His victims come from the other world and take his most precious possession - his blood. The phantasmal atmosphere... See full summary »
Amateur actors rehearsing "Pictures from the Insects' Life". The actors find themselves living out their characters' roles and hallucinating insects. "Insects", is intercut with the ... See full summary »
Beneath the decay of a dying world lives the Mad Doctor Mindskull. Using the planet's power of creation he has created the ultimate Weapon. Can mankind find a way to stop this Evil before ... See full summary »
On finding out that this film is the creation of Jan vankmajer's son, Václav, one could be forgiven for expecting a derivative imitation of his father's pioneering stop-motion animation style. However, 'The Torchbearer' acquits itself as a major and distinctive work in its own right, arguably the greatest sub-30-minute film of 2005. Visually, it is in a more 'classical' vein than any of vankmajer Sr's messy and visceral shorts: the film follows the passage of an austere and silent figure in Greco-Roman armour through a castle resembling one of Piranesi's imaginary prisons, and inhabited by female statues who come to life and watch from the shadows (I won't go into the further details here, since I couldn't do them justice anyway). Both the structure and the imagery of the film seem to invite possible allegorical readings: temporal cycles, the rise and fall of kings, the martial invasion of a matriarchal space, etc. (although the absence of dialogue leaves things uncertain).
The models are crisp and realistic, and sound is put to haunting use: creaking pulleys, the clank of metal on stone, unidentified subterranean rumbling. In fact, if 'The Torchbearer' resembles anything, it is the Quay Brothers' sombre 'Street of Crocodiles' (itself vankmajer-inspired), although one can see that the filming technology has moved on in the intervening twenty years. This film deserves to be seen not only by vankmajer/Quay enthusiasts, but anyone who remains sceptical about the power of animation to create genuinely 'dark' environments that rival live-action productions. I saw it amongst other shorts (both hand-drawn and CGI) at an animation festival, but it made everything else seem weak by comparison. Unfortunately I doubt this will reach much beyond the orbit of the international festival circuit, and Václav's father's name may be more of a hindrance than a help to him, but I would recommend keeping an eye out for it.
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