The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer

– Brothers Quay (1984)

The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer is a 1984 British surreal short stop-motion film by the Quay Brothers, an homage to the influential short film maker Jan Švankmajer.

This early film by renowned animators the Quay Brothers is structured as a series of little lessons in perception, taught by a puppet simulacrum of Jan Svankmajer, whose head is an opened book, to a doll whose head the master empties of dross and refills with a similar open book. Each of the nine segments or chapters “refers variously to the importance of objects in Svankmajer’s work, their transformation and bizarre combination through specifically cinematic techniques, the extraordinary power of the camera to ‘make strange’, the influence of Surrealism on Svankmajer’s work, and the subversive and radical role of humor. Taken out of the context of the original Visions television documentary on Svankmajer, for which they served as illustration/commentary, these vignettes might at first sight seem a trifle bewildering. They ideally need to be viewed more than once before they begin to work effectively as quirky introductions to the Svankmajer universe. Then, however, they emerge as surprisingly charming and delightful excursions into this astonishing (and often deeply disturbing) directors work.” –Julian Petley

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