Little Otik

Director: Jan avankmajer

Little Otik, the new film from Czech animator and surrealist Jan avankmajer, seems likely to reach a broader audience than his previous features (Alice, Faust, Conspirators of Pleasure). Based on a traditional Czech fairytale, it’s a wickedly satirical comedy telling of a childless couple who acquire a baby from a somewhat unusual source. Mr. Horak (Jan Hartl) digs up a tree root that vaguely resembles a baby, trims it and presents it to his wife. Much to his dismay, Mrs Horakova (Veronika Îilkova) proves only too willing to treat it as a real child and is soon powdering its bottom, changing its nappies and cutting its nails. The Horaks have mislead the neighbours with an extended fake pregnancy and will the young Otik into existence. He rapidly develops a voracious and deadly appetite. The family cat, the postman and a visiting social worker mysteriously disappear.
In an adjoining apartment live the atadlers and their daughter, AlÏbûtka (Kristina Adamcova). The precocious and defiant 11-year-old studies a textbookoSexual Dysfunction and Sterilityohidden under the dust jacket of K.J. Erben’s fairy stories. She soon notices parallels between the events next door and the character Otesanek in Erben’s classic tale. Her readings from the book begin to anticipate episodes in the film and she sets out to protect Otik from the consequences of his actions.
In its use of actors and a straightforward narrative, Little Otik is in many ways avankmajer’s most conventional and overtly humorous film. In terms of subject matter, though, the new film is quite close to Faust (‘a rebellion against nature’) and Conspirators of Pleasure (‘the omnipresence of desire’). avankmajer’s links with surrealism remain intact. In Little Otik an early shot makes explicit reference to Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali’s Un Chien Andalou (1928): Mr Horak looks down into the street where a man is catching babies in a net and wrapping them in newspaper like carp for a Christmas meal, echoing the scene in the earlier film where the hero watches the androgen prod a severed hand in the street..
Czech Republic-U.K.-Japan, 2000. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 131 mins.

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