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Monday, 13 December 2010

jan svankmajer: the fall of the house of usher (1981)


Even without understanding the voiceover (in softly lulling Czech) Svankmajer's film soaks up the mysterious gloom of Edgar Allan Poe's gothic story of death, doppelgangers and the claustraphobic weight of history. Like the story, it's the house, brooding in the dusky light, that is the main character in Svankmajer's film, dominating the landscape of barren trees and pulsating from foundation to roof with doom. Freed from any pesky humans (or even puppet people) to carry the narrative, it's also the atmospheric house that Svankmajer uses to tell the tale, in crumbling plaster moulding itself into tormented shapes, words appearing out of dead leaves, blank faces appearing in walls and a coffin silently, clunkily and apparently singlemindedly weaving its own way through the rooms. This short film (find it in the Collected Shorts Of Jan Svankmajer DVD)  might be the best unlikely example of Svankmajer's belief in the memories of materials and objects, and in the power of animation to free those memories.

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