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.
When a childless couple learn that they cannot have children, it causes great distress. To ease his wife's pain, the man finds a piece of root in the backyard and chops it and varnishes it into the shape of a child. However the woman takes the root as her baby and starts to pretend that it is real. When the root takes life they seem to have gained a child; but its appetite is much greater than a ... 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 »
BREAKFAST: After eating breakfast, a man is transformed into an elaborate dumb-waiter-style breakfast dispenser - and the same fate befalls the man who obtains breakfast from him. LUNCH: ... See full summary »
A bust of Stalin is cut open on an operating table, leading to an elaborate animated depiction of Czech history from 1948 (the Communist takeover) to 1989 (the Velvet Revolution). Some ... See full summary »
SURVIVING LIFE is my first Svankmajer film. I'm not sure it was the ideal place to start, because it doesn't seem to be a very accessible type of movie. The director stars as himself, playing a man in an unhappy marriage who's haunted by dreams of a beautiful woman. To that end, he begins visiting a psychiatrist, and that's where the fun really begins.
The most arresting, and original thing, about the production is the animation. The characters are animated via stills moved through stop-motion, and it's a unique experience, one that brought to mind the old days of MONTY PYTHON. With this being a surreal film, there's plenty of surrealist humour, mostly involving creatures with human heads or humans with animal heads.
The story is where the film lets itself down a bit, because it doesn't really seem to be about much. There's no sense of pace or narrative structure, just endless repetition in the elaborate dream sequences and the real-life stuff, which is just as weird. The humour works, the jokes are funny, but the script isn't. By the end, I found it all slightly tiresome and wondered if it might have worked better as a short.
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