Archive of films Lunacy / Šílení

Czech Republic / Slovak Republic
2005, 119 min

Section: Out of the Past
Year: 2014

Is the utter spiritual emptiness and emotional aridity that comes with absolute freedom worse than that brought about by an authoritative ordering of society? A question we might consider asking after watching a film which shocks us with its exalted images of brutality and nihilism.


At the end of the 1980s Jan Švankmajer, master of gnomically compact and concise statements, felt the urge to increase the footage. Lunacy is his fifth feature-length film, moreover, his first in which animation retreats somewhat in favour of live action. Nevertheless, the animator is still the big cheese, while his characters are not given any inner dimension and, in all respects, behave like puppets, obediently fulfilling the tasks assigned to them. They are galvanised by a literally frenzied vortex which continually sweeps them up in new, visually opulent variations on the theme: a hopeless world structure governed alternately by rigorous order or the desire for limitless freedom. The film comes across as a comprehensive overview by an individual with resolute opinions, theories, obsessions and ways to visualise them, while the end product is possibly the darkest vision of our existence Švankmajer has ever put forth. Nevertheless, his own commentary at the beginning of the film suggests a different interpretation altogether – that this macabre mêlée could conceivably be seen as a chintzy fairground spectacle.

About the director

Jan Švankmajer (b. 1934, Prague) has built up a remarkably wide-ranging filmography which reflects his former training as a puppeteer and his surrealist way of thinking, where any object is ripe for sarcastic analysis; the result might be shocking and also liberating by virtue of what he discovers beneath the surface of ostensibly familiar, even banal, objects. In fact, he used his quirky puppets only exceptionally (The Coffin House, 1966; Don Juan, 1970), although all his "heroes” behave like them, whether the product of relief animation, as in Et cetera (1966) and Virile Games (1988), or whether represented only by their attributes (Picnic with Weissmann, 1968; Jabberwocky, 1971) or by real actors (The Garden, 1968; Conspirators of Pleasure, 1996). Always the same expression, stereotypical gestures and movements, empty heads, easy to manipulate. And we need stiff reminders of the fact that we’re all just like that.


ATHANOR – společnost pro filmovou tvorbu, s.r.o.
U 5. baterie 21, 162 00, Praha 6
Czech Republic
Tel: +420 233 322 905
Fax: +420 224 313 383

About the film

Color, 35 mm

Section: Out of the Past
Director: Jan Švankmajer
Screenplay: Jan Švankmajer
Dir. of Photography: Juraj Galvánek
Editor: Marie Zemanová
Producer: Jaromír Kallista
Production: Athanor s.r.o.
Coproduction: C-GA Film Juraj Galvánek
Cast: Jan Tříska, Pavel Liška, Anna Geislerová
Contact: ATHANOR – společnost pro filmovou tvorbu, s.r.o.


Jan Švankmajer

Film Director


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