Jan Svankmajer is back with his sixth feature length film. Surviving Life (Theory and Practice) is full of his usual Eastern European dark humour and surrealisms which all of the critics are raving about and I am too.
The story unfolds as a married man named Eugene (Václav Helšus) begins to dream of leading a double life where he meets a beautiful young woman named Eugenia (Klára Issová). Amidst his emotional assortment of intrigue and bewilderment we are also treated to his deepest, quirkiest imaginary creations as random animals and objects emerge from the Czech streets around him. It’s not long before his journey down the rabbit hole begins to merge with his waking life, so baffled and intrigued by the meaning of his dreams he visits a psychoanalyst who tries to interpret them for him.
…reminiscent of Waltz with Bashir and the stop motion animation used by Terry Gilliam…
As a disjointed narrative focusing on the protagonists exploration of himself, Surviving Life is reminiscent of Waltz with Bashir and the stop motion animation famously used by Terry Gilliam in Monty Python’s Flying Circus and subsequently in the Python team’s following feature length films.
Svankmajer’s portrayal of his characters’ dreamscape is the closest representation I have ever experienced of the average imaginings me and you have almost every night. Forget the glossy, ‘life-like’ fiction of Inception where our only notions of understanding that we are watching a dream world are conveyed via elaborate special effects and the constant reminder of the intended setting via dialogue; Surviving Life is complete with disjointed narrative, random imagery, confusion and raw emotion which we can all relate to.
… an editing technique based somewhere between a match cut and a schizophrenic’s synapses…
By far the most captivating yet haunting feature of Surviving Life is Svankmajer’s jaunty fusion of ‘real’ images and animated doppelgangers fused together with an editing technique based somewhere between a match cut and a schizophrenic’s synapses, creating a surreal and at times, frightening duel narrative.
For those who have not experienced Svankmajer’s work previously, it can be a difficult and at times, frustrating film to soak in. But give it a chance, open your mind and and try to relate to the mis-en-scene and at the very least you will soon find yourself appreciating what a visionary filmmaker can produce with ingenuity, imagination and a minimal budget.
Image courtesy of Surviving Life