Follow TV Tropes


Creator / Jan Švankmajer

Go To
Holding a chicken is the least bizarre thing he ever did!

Jan Švankmajer (born September 4, 1934) is an internationally acclaimed and influential Czech animator and film director. His works are often surreal and make use of live-action, cut-outs, stop motion, claymation and puppet animation. He has both made short films and full length films.

Švankmajer works within national Czech(oslovakian) traditions such as fairy tales, puppet theatres and the surreal stories of Franz Kafka and Karel Čapek. His films are often strange, dark and disturbing, but also have a Dark Comedy side to them. Still, they are highly original and the creativity is impressive. Because Švankmajer worked under the Communist regime his films remained unknown in the West until the 1980's. Even worse, the government banned him in 1972 from making films, and many of his later films were suppressed.

Since then, Švankmajer has been discovered and praised by film and animation fans alike. People like Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton and The Brothers Quay have been influenced by his work. His best known film is probably Alice (1988), which has become a cult classic and was reviewed by Oancitizen for Brows Held High.

Among his films are:

This animator/director's work provides examples of:

  • Animal Motif: Chickens.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: The director often animates lifeless things or objects, especially animal skeletons and stuffed animals.
  • Anthropomorphic Food: In the short Meat Love (1989), two pieces of meat romantically dance with each other, but are cooked anyway in the end.
  • Big Eater (and Extreme Omnivore:) The two customers in the "Lunch" segment of Food are so starved that they eat everything in their vicinity.
    • Also, Little Otik.
  • Bizarre Taste in Food: Creatures, animals and humans often devour strange inedible things, including each other.
    • The central theme of the short Food.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Virile Game can be best described as soccer players killing each other in various violent yet bloodless ways.
  • Body Horror: Švankmajer often makes strange new biological creations in his stop motion animation of skeletons.
  • The City / Ghibli Hills: Two of Švankmajer's most frequent exterior settings (although interior scenes are far more common.)
  • Claymation: One of the techniques he used.
  • Deranged Animation: Owns this trope!
  • Eaten Alive: A frequent theme.
  • Eating Shoes: Two customers in a restaurant in Food start eating everything in their vicinity, including their own shoes, because their waiter won't take their order.
  • Eat the Camera: Švankmajer often use close-ups of human mouths, mostly when they are eating something or when they are narrating a story.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Everything will eat anything!
  • Fairy Tale Motifs: He derives many stories from Czechoslovakian folk tales.
  • Faust: He adapted the story for his film Faust.
  • Le Film Artistique
  • It Kind of Looks Like a Face: Švankmajer likes constructing faces or otherwise human shapes with other objects, for instance stones and pebbles.
  • Made of Plasticine: A lot of the violence in his works can be described this way, but Virile Games in particular shows faces getting smashed, mutilated, and splattered like they were made of clay (which they were, but still).
  • Marionette Motion: Various objects are animated in an often eerily unnatural way.
  • Music Video: He animated the music video for Hugh Cornwell's "Another Kind of Love."
  • Postmodernism: There's a blurring line between reality and fiction in his entire oeuvre.
  • Scary Teeth: Objects, animals and humans with big, japing jaws full of teeth are omnipresent in his animation.
  • Stealth Pun: Meat Love is about two uncooked pieces of steak having sex before being grilled. It's a display of raw emotion.
  • Stop Motion: His profession.
  • Surreal Horror: Do we need to describe this?
  • Surreal Humor: His most recent movie Surviving Life offer lots of examples of this.