Jan Švankmajer II

film 1 of 4

Dimensions of Dialogue

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 10, 2015

This one is also quite reminiscent of A Game with Stones, to the point that it has to be a conscious variation. A very successful one, too; the earlier film is formal and rhythmical and basically abstract. Beyond some mild, mostly unconflicted breaking up, it is geologically stable and philosophically untroubled. Here the pulverizing and consuming is not remotely abstract, and though you are uncertain about exact symbolic correlations, the film’s symbolic nature is very clear, and not very reassuring at all.

The organic is consumed by the mechanical. That’s an easy opposition, even an overfamiliar one. But then the mechanical is consumed by something else—the bureaucratic? The scholarly? Now the process accelerates and multiplies, each victor now partly made up of that which it has devoured. Rich possibilities: life as movement; life as conquest; the inevitability of dissolution and, with the organic elements that keep multiplying, decay; infectiousness, or the possibility of subversion; the vulnerability—to the point of doom—of the human organism in the face of all the competing and outnumbering organisms and materials. Add Svankmajer’s standard scurrying, squishy sound, and you’ve got some horror movie here. The more, the better for its complete lack of plot or character.

Need we say? It’s electrifyingly executed, with the stretches of hyper close-up, lightning fast montage being especially overwhelming. It’s a microscopic, entropic vision, really, and it would be utterly terminal if it weren’t so thrillingly skillful and intelligent.