Jan Svankmajer: Stop Motion
Jan Svankmajer a Czech born animator is known for his use of clay and inanimate objects that come to life and he is a well known surrealists. It is clearly displayed in his works that he has made, like his movie Conspirators of Pleasure. He has over the the years slowly moved more toward live action, so this paper will focus more on Svankmajer’s earlier short and featured films. Svankmajer’s work is often considered to be strange, nightmarish and surreal and this is because of how he uses stop motion in his works to create weird and grotesque looking films that are funny still. For example look at Darkness Light Darkness in which two clay hands slowly evolve into the a human, by collecting all the parts and putting them in the right order.
At one point(3:19) when finishing up the head, a tongue, teeth, and brains all real objects from different animals come across the stage moving like living things. This is funny and grotesque at the same time due to it being stop motion. Since the things are real it adds a layer of reality to it, yet at the same time it’s clearly not actually alive due to the nature of it being moved. One could not get this effect with traditional animation and definitely not with live action. Svankmajer’s use of stop motion is how he captures the essence of surrealism that would not be able to be captured with traditional animation since all of the objects would be drawings and would not be able to fully capture the natural motions of objects. Also, live action could not capture a tongue moving across a screen without looking out of place and would require a person moving it across the stage to make it visible to the viewer. He used clay often as a tool that he could easily change and reform into objects that help show his ideas. Clay in short films like Dimensions of Dialogue, Food, and Manly Games is used in different ways yet is helpful with moving along with the story. If you look at Food for example clay was used in the lunch scene where the people eating would shove different objects in their mouth that would not normally fit so clay was used to allow it to happen. Food is also an example of pixilation, a type of stop motion where human actors are used. Since humans actors are used traditional animation could not be thrown in the middle of this and live action would just change how the whole film works. Stop motion gives this unique looking feel to a film. Alice was his first feature film that he made, he used stop motion and live action to together to create the movie. This movie captures the surrealism that Svankmajer is known for with inanimate objects moving freely without aid and giving off a creepy vibe with the sound and setting choice. Traditional animation would just lose the sense of realism because it would be clear that the objects were drawn. The stop motion that he does gives the creepy vibe because the objects are jumpy and do not flow smoothly like it would in live action or traditional animation. The surrealism comes from the medium he uses, which is everyday objects and clay.
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