Svankmajer is best known for his virtuosic series of animation stop-motion short films. The film maker then abandoned short films for feature-length films, with mixed results. I very much enjoyed the first two feature-length films 'Faust' & 'Alice'. But it is in his sixth feature 'Surviving Life' that Svankmajer is again working at the peak of imagination. This psychoanalytical comedy is clearly in the tradition of the alchemist Prague of Rudolf II, as well as the bizarre Prague of Kafka and modern surrealism. The mixture of animation (in general) & life action (in close-ups) in this film is entirely appropriate. The succession of light & dark, levity & anxiety, are beautifully articulated, and the dream sequences are always accompanied by the lyrical Concert Waltz no. 1 by Glazunov, once heard never forgotten. In Svankmajer's dream world the psychoanalyst manages to be both Freudian & Jungian!
This is a deeply satisfying film - it manages to be both funny and tragic, and entertains whilst being intellectually stimulating. It is also aesthetically and stylistically brilliant and unique. If anyone needs proof that film can be the intellectual equal of literature this film is the one. This really is an amazing film, I can't stop thinking about it - I know that I'll have to watch it again very soon.
Having caught this film briefly on Film4, I knew it was something I had to see! I'm into my Czech films but Surviving Life got me into a Czech 'film-maker,' and I'm moving onto his others this week! My g/f also liked this flick and I'm pleased that it is (I understand) slightly less sexual and grotesque than his others, otherwise she'd never have watched it! Now she too is looking 4ward to viewing more of his films!
Švankmajer takes your soul apart and puts it back together again. It won't necessarily be the same as it was before.
If you've suppressed your memories of "Conspirators of Desire" because it was just too real, and if you fell in love with "Little Otik", then you need to see this film. If you grew up with "Alice"... then perhaps this is the story of your life.