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Surreal and Disturbing,
This review is from: Lunacy [DVD] (DVD)
This is my third Jan Svankmajer film. First came Little Otik; a grown-up fairy tale filled with imagination and black humour. Five stars. Then Conspirators of Pleasure; utterly bizarre, but strangely compelling. Four stars. Lunacy combines elements of the two, but is much darker and without the humour. A disturbed young man in modern Czech Republic is taken-in by a Maquis de Sade type figure and transported back to his 19th century world. There he witnesses scenes of extreme blasphemy and debauchery, which are the most striking scenes in the film. He is then taken by the Maquis to an asylum, where we start to wonder if the inmates may have taken over. The story contines to unfold, but I shan't give away too much more here.
This element of the narrative is striking and disturbing, and with this alone the film would be a challenging watch. However, Svankmajer intercuts the film with his trademark stop motion filming. Used with such striking effect in his other films, here it is more grotesque as the animation features various cuts of meat and offal brought to life. That will sound deeply unpleasant, but as the animation is realised in a slightly comic fashion, it is more entertaining than nauseating. And it is the way that the disturbing natue of the main narrative is intercut with these slightly comic pieces that makes the entire film a less challenging and troubling watch.
It's a hard film to recommend unless you've seen other examples of Svankmajer's work and have an idea what to expect. If you have and are prepared to be challenged and provoked, then this is worth seeing.