Jan Švankmajer

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A Game with Stones

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 10, 2015

I think of  Svankmajer as an artist of decay and entropy, or of the malevolence of inanimate objects. Here, though, his virtuosities are a little less dire—the film’s title may be plain descriptive. This clock chimes five times, and the stones press through the faucet and into the bucket, and he contrives five wonderful variations on that theme. First a geometrical arrangement, then an exploration of texture, and next an array of whoppingly imaginative, joyfully executed compound sculptures. After that the stones are pulverized and then animated, the rubble forming into conversing or kissing or mutually consuming heads. Finally there’s a study of collision as the stones crack and fault and fragment. It sounds entropic, or atrocity-political, but I’m pretty sure the idea is purely geological, not at all symbolic: anxious modernist as Enlightenment geologist.

At the end the pail bottom finally breaks out. We have some more music box music, but it’s not remotely sarcastic. I guess this is the second law of thermodynamics, or maybe just an observation about cycles, and their ending. Either way, very nice! The camera is perpendicular to the subject. There are tons of really fast cuts, past our capacity to easily differentiate or perceive, but all still ordered and edifying.