Jan Švankmajer and the Magic of Film

Jan Svankmajer

I had the immense pleasure of attending a film screening last night of ‘Alice‘ by Jan Švankmajer in the sparse basement of Modern Art Oxford. To be honest, I had never heard of this director/artist before, but I’ve been waiting all night to be able to wake up and share him with you.

Švankmajer is a Czech filmmaker who merges stop motion filming, puppets, exaggerated sounds, human actors and his own imagination in a brilliant way. He’s the inspiration for many directors I know and love… such as Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam.

His most famous films include Alice (1988), Lesson Faust (1994), Conspirators of Pleasure (1996), Little Otik (2000) and Lunacy (2005), based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe (one of my personal favourite authors) and the Marquis de Sade. He is also known for his short film, Dimensions of Dialogue (1982), which Terry Gilliam selected as one of the best animated films of all time.

Still from Alice

This isn’t a particularly ‘booky’ post, but as the film ‘Alice‘ is loosely based on Oxford-based Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, I hope you can forgive me for sharing. Švankmajer also created a short film titled Jabberwocky (1971). I could go on and on about how much I loved viewing ‘Alice‘ last night. It’s full of humour and creativity, conveying the story of Alice in Wonderland through a loose interpretation but capturing the magic and spookiness of the whole thing in perfect pitch. Švankmajer’s work speaks for itself, despite there being very little dialogue or narration in his films. So, without further ado, I’ll share some of his magical creations here, although many are readily available online for free. Good luck finding subtitles though…but you don’t really need them. The visuals are stunning enough.

Trailer for Alice:

Jabberwocky Part 1:

Jabberwocky Part 2:




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