Jan Švankmajer: Lekce Faust. 1994

Czech animator Jan Švankmajer remains a rare and remarkable creative force in the motion pictures. For Lekce Faust (‘Faust’) his second feature length film, Švankmajer drew on his personal experience and familiarity with the Faust legend through his work on Czech director Emil Radok’s film ‘Doktor Faust’ in 1958. But, over and above that formative influence, his academic training in puppetry in the Academy of Performing Arts (Prague), coupled with his commitment to surrealist performing art via the Czech Surrealist Group, led him to craft one of the most intriguing films of the 20th century. Marrying his mastery of stop-motion cinematography to a volatile mix of puppetry, human theatre, German opera, Czech folk performance, and dark irreverence  Švankmajer’s ‘Lekce Faust’ is an absolute original. Of particular interest is the fact that he manages to loosely weave into the narrative two rather well known tragic plays –  Christopher Marlowe’s ‘Doctor Faustus‘ (1604) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s ‘Faust‘ (1806), in a spirit of imagination and creative interpretation. In the end, one is left with the feeling, that in all of this, Švankmajer remains the original conjurer, the ‘black magician’. Watch.

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Jan Švankmajer – Něco z Alenky aka “Something from Alice” (1988)


Švankmajer is probably one of the worlds best kept creative secrets, unfortunately. Hardly heard and known outside the initiated follower groups, Jan comes up with the most striking and thoughtful, or should I say stirring film narratives. Working in his native city of Prague throughout, his background in puppetry, sculpture and performance gives him a unique voice in animation-live action film making. Inimitable. See for yourself.

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