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Short Films: Programme 1 (1964-1970)

avankmajer’s early films are dominated by his background in puppetry and his interest in the secret life of objects. In The Last Trick (1964) two competing magicians demonstrate their skills before an unseen audience, their faces covered by papier-mâche heads. While the film is strongly rooted in an affection for Georges Melies, the magicians also recall the clockwork androids of the 19th century. Punch and Judy (The Coffin Factory/Rakvickarna, 1966) maintains the theme of physical conflict and textural contrast, while Don Juan/Don aajn (1970) is the closest to traditional puppet theatre. A version of the 18th century play, it nonetheless takes in real settings and reveals the means of manipulation. In J.S. Bach: Fantasia in G Minor (1965), a tribute to the surrealist photographer Emila Medkova, Bach’s music accompanies the visual statement of stone surfaces, chipped plaster, old doors and locksoan independent world of development and decay. In the Kafkaesque The Flat/Byt (1968), the hero finds himself in a locked room, a victim of objects that change their shape and function in denial of expected relations. In A Quiet Week in a House/Tichý týden v dome (1969), a camouflaged and unshaven man inhabits a black and white world from which he spies on a silent world of objects, shimmering in colour and unexpected juxtaposition. In his ‘documentary’ The Ossuary/Kostnice (1970), he examines the church at Sedlec decorated with thousands of human skulls and bones from the Hussite wars and the Black Death. In this exercise in what has been called the ‘baroque macabre’, avankmajer again unlocks the expressive complexity of objects and surfaces.
Running time: 105 mins.

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