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  • 4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars
The maestro of Czech animated surrealism pops up to introduce his latest feature, helpfully suggesting that it draws on Poe and de Sade, and adamant it’s not really art. The latter point seems false modesty, since this captivating amalgam of inspired visual imagination and pointed political comment certainly qualifies in our book. Fans of Svankmajer’s shorts will be delighted by the stop-motion interludes, as stray beef steaks, ox tongues and eyeballs get frisky with one another. But the thematic meat isthe unfolding live-action story, interspersing its eighteenth-century setting with relevant modern trappings.

Troubled orphan Jean (Pavel Liska) comes under the skewed influence of the Marquis (Jan Triska), who, in between participating in orgies and ordering his own burial, suggests his new peasant pal sign himself into the nearby asylum to cure his nightmare-inducing fear of madness. Since the institution follows the Marquis’ libertarian principles, the inmates have the run of the place to chaotic effect. But would things really improve if the disciplinarian former regime returned to power?

Clearly, the question’s more significant than the answer for Svankmajer, and the parallels run wider than recent Czech history. With confident performances as prominent as weird fun with animal products (whatever our politics, we’re all just meat puppets in the end, folks), it’s an unsettling spectacle, even if the stodgy mid-section and brow-beaten lead dull the overall impact. Still, with provocative personal cinema at a premium these days, you’d be mad to miss it.
Written by Trevor Johnston

Release Details

  • Release date:Friday 1 June 2007
  • Duration:118 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Jan Svankmajer
  • Screenwriter:Jan Svankmajer
  • Cast:
    • Pavel Liska
    • Jan Triska
    • Anna Geislerová
    • Jaroslav Dusek
    • Martin Huba
    • Pavel Novy
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