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Thursday, 31 July 2008

Jan Svankmajer "Darkness Light Darkness"










Darkness Light Darkness by Jan Svankmajer is one of the most imaginative uses of clay in animation I have ever seen. Almost all Jan’s work would be ranked as a classic in any definition of the word but this one indisputably is. It should be required viewing for any student commencing a claymation course. Set in a minuscule room a hand gradually assimilates all the missing parts of its body, commencing with a pair of eyes that roll into the room, quickly seizing a second hand and catching a fluttering "moth" that is shaped to form a nose. With an ability to shape the clay in exact detail, introduce the different elements of the body to arresting visual effect and at all times retain a sense of humour, the Czech master’s 1989 piece is just perfect. Sometimes, if I have a criticism of his work in the round, it is that the animator’s vision is a bleak one, of necessity one might add, his home country living under an iron regime. Here everything is tempered by wit and considerable ingenuity. When the room is flooded by oozing clay to the point one might believe the end is nigh, the sheer mass of material is squashed and flattened into place and ..... we have the guy’s buttocks and torso. Watch the eyes attached to the fingers or the tongue seized, fixed in place and then exercised, or the dripping genitalia pinched in the right places and operational, I guess. If I might remind you of my Christmas present to myself: Jan Svankmajer: The Complete Short Films.

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