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Surviving Life (Theory and Practice)
109 min.
Jan Svankmajer
Animation, Comedy, Fantasy
Rating *
Votes *
18.9% (1:5)
* View IMDb information

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  1. dombrewer's avatar


    Svankmajer's most recent feature length film is also his most ingeniously animated and by some way his funniest and most satirical.
    It opens with a short introduction from the director, animated in the style of the film and clumsily dubbed over in English, where he apologises for the fact that his "psychoanalytical comedy" is a cheap animation rather than a live action film as he'd intended and probably isn't funny at all, and that the animation is just of photographs as the actors were too expensive to hire, even that the introduction was necessary at all to boost the running time. It's an audacious opening and one that brings to mind some of the criticism Svankmajer must face as an animator - where to some audiences his work may not taken as seriously as a live action film, somehow easier to make or cheaper, when of course the exact opposite is the case.
    The story involves the waking and sleeping life of Eugene (Václav Helsus), a happily married, middle aged business man who meets and grows obsessed with a beautiful young woman in his dreams. Attempting to see her more often he goes to great lengths to ensure he can dream undisturbed, and makes frequent visits to a psychoanalyst in an attempt to understand what the dreams mean. The wonder of the film is that practically the whole running time is made up of superbly surreal animated photography, not like the work of Terry Gilliam in the Monty Python series and films, regularly intercut with live action moments, so that the real and the surreal are permanently blurred. Neatly manicured ladies hands protrude from windows to politely applaud when Eugene and his dream woman embrace; a watermelon is blown up like a balloon and explodes into reality as it hits the pavement; Eugene's boss has a dog with the body of a suited business man on all fours; enormous snakes slither out of doorways to consume men who can only run on the spot; characters' heads are sucked into their bodies and replaced with those of chickens and crocodiles; the portraits of Jung and Freud on the therapist's wall observe the sessions and approve of her theories (depending on who's theory she is expounding) and break out of their frames to scrap with each other. It's all dazzlingly executed and brilliantly captures the disconnected, otherworldly logic of our dreams.
    The story takes a fascinating turn as Eugene's tragic family history is slowly unfolded, and his dreams begin to reveal a darker story, while the screenplay roundly mocks the cult of dream reading and psychoanalytical therapy.
    Possibly Svankmajer's best work and that's not too bad for a man who is still pushing boundaries in his mid-seventies.
    6 years 5 months ago
  2. flaiky's avatar


    I struggled to enjoy this's a clever film, but it also feels unpleasant to watch. It gets very repetitive as well and could easily have been 30 minutes shorter. 6 years 3 months ago
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