Surviving Life – Jan Švankmajer (GIRAF 6)

Thank god for GIRAF. Where else would you get to see something like this? Not quite animation not quite live action it’s the newest (and rumoured to be the last) film from long-time influential Czech animator Jan Švankmajer. Absurd and elaborate as always it’s a huge stylistic departure for Švankmajer replicating the 2D cutouts of Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python shorts for the entire duration of the film.

Švankmajer even self-referentially jokes about this at the film’s intro. Animating himself into his film he explains how he was intending to shoot a live-action film but didn’t have the budget — so they animated most of it. Then he explains that the only reason he included the opening intro is that the movie wasn’t quite long enough and they just needed to pad out the length. Charmingly post-modern and self deprecating. And then the fuzzy teddy bears with erect penises come out.

Described in his own words as a ‘psychoanalytical comedy’ it’s still a bit disappointing how familiar the plot seems. Eugene having vivid dreams of a fantasy woman finds it harder and harder to stay in the real world spending more and more time dreaming and losing track of when he’s awake. There’s a bit of The Science of Sleep some Brazil and some Lynch for good measure.

While the plot doesn’t break any new grounds the seamless mesh of live and animated sequences is entirely unique. It’s rare that such a shift in technique and tone can still maintain the level of quality that Švankmajer does here. His comedic timing remains sharp as ever and his absurd concepts are given free reign in the form of re-animated portraits of Frued and Jung duking it out.

And for those that fear the absence of Švankmajer’s grotesque side you’ll be happy to know that his fondness for severed tongues remains present as per below

Surviving Life trailer:

and from about 20 years prior Darkness/Light/Darkness: