Alchemist of the Surreal: Jan Švankmajer, Animator of Prague

JUNE 22-25, 27, 29-30

"No other filmmaker – and that includes David Lynch – is so consistently inventive in his ability to marry pure, startling nonsense with rigorous logic, black wit with piercing psychological insights.” GEOFF ANDREW, TIME OUT

The renowned director Milos Forman has famously described the startlingly original, uniquely disturbing vision of fellow Czech filmmaker Jan Švankmajer as “Disney + Buñuel.” Švankmajer's dark, macabre, cruel, witty, perverse, visceral films — including a string of mind-boggling shorts dating back to the early 1960s, and a series of bizarre and brilliant features beginning with an acclaimed adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in 1988 — are celebrated for their imaginative mix of stop-motion animation and live action and their unsettling assemblages of puppets, dolls, toys, and other (often musty and mildewed) everyday household objects. Fetishism, erotic fantasy, and obsessive ritual frequently figure prominently. Delightfully subversive and painstakingly crafted, this body of work has established Švankmajer as one of animation's greatest living maestros, and as Prague's most prominent purveyor of nightmarish surrealism since Kafka.

“Disney + Buñuel = Švankmajer.” MILOS FORMAN

Švankmajer’s films reveal the influence of Edgar Allen Poe, Lewis Carroll, the Marquis de Sade, Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dali and the Surrealists, and traditional Czech puppet theatre (Švankmajer himself also cites Eisenstein and Fellini). Švankmajer has in turn been a major influence on the notable likes of Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, the Brothers Quay, and many others. This retrospective, organized in association with the New York-based curator Irena Kovarova, includes all six of Švankmajer’s feature-length films to date as well as a select program of his award-winning shorts, and offers the first major retrospective of Švankmajer’s work to be presented in Vancouver since 1995. Additional support provided by the Czech Center New York.


Click for film notes + showtimes

Recent Showings

Švankmajer's first feature was this highly perverse, highly personal adult adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, hailed by many as the definitive film version of Lewis Carroll’s classic.
Offering a fantastical retelling of the Faust legend, Švankmajer's second feature-length film is a tour-de-force of black magic and black humour.
Švankmajer's extraordinary short films are filled with startling images that celebrate unrestrained imagination while satirizing the machinery of a repressive society.
A wordless take on sexual fetishism and fantasy that draws on Freud, de Sade, Buñuel, and Max Ernst.
A bizarre parable of procreation, parenting, food phobia, and monstrous mass consumption, modelled on a famous Czech folktale.
Gleefully deranged and wondrously inventive, involving slithering amputated tongues, autonomous eyeballs, and gruesomely glistening entrails.
Švankmajer’s latest feature, in which the master animator embarks on an eye-popping new cut-out-and-collage direction (mixed with live action).