jan svankmajer

As I prepare the animated Mari Lwyd sequences for the Mid Wales Chamber Orchestra commission of The Mare’s Tale (music by Mark Bowden and words by Damian Walford Davies), I’m recommending to Artloggers examples of  films from the animators I most admire. Yuri Norstein was the first, and today I suggest you take a look at the work of the man sometimes called ‘The Magician of Prague’, Jan Svankmajer.

The work I’m recommending is the 1966 short, Punch and Judy.  Svankmajer is not for the squeamish. His work is undeniably visceral, and for Punch and Judy he takes a typically anarchic approach to the subject in a hybrid-blend of puppetry and partial-animation. (He often uses filmed footage with occasional frames removed so that persistence of vision is undermined by an unnerving jerkiness.) I love the dirt and grittiness of this artist’s world. And don’t worry, because nothing bad happens to the remarkably sanguine guinea pig!

Click HERE for Punch and Judy.

I also highly recommend Svankmajer’s feature-length Alice, the most inventive and true-to-the-spirit-of-the-original adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece to be committed to celluloid. It lulls at the beginning with a bucolic live-action conjuring of the riverside, but the stop-motion, when it comes, is an imaginative tour de force.

Many years ago Peter, knowing that Svankmajer was a great hero of mine, acquired an original drawing by him of what I believe to be a design for a shadow-puppet. Peter managed this sleight-of-hand without my knowledge when we met the great man, not in Prague… where one might normally expect to find him … but in Swansea!

Frottage drawing by Jan Svankmajer

10 thoughts on “jan svankmajer

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  4. I enjoyed looking at that, thank you!

    One of my favourite all time films is ‘Little Otik’ by Jan Svankmajer, its a work of darkly comic genius!
    (but it is sooo expensive to buy on Amazon)

  5. Thank you so much for the link to the full-length Alice! I’d only seen the section with the caterpillar before but instantly (ok, when I saw the darning mushroom in the opening sequence) realised it was from this film. Genius. Opening, closing, ripping, sewing…

  6. I am looking forward to the clips. Running late but managed a few stolen moments with P & J. Made my morning sweeter. Thank you, Jan is a wonder I was unfamiliar with.


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