Surviving Life (Theory and Practice) DVD
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Directed by Jan Svankmajer
Produced in 2010
Main Language - Czech with English subtitles
Contemporary Drama • Contemporary Comedy • Contemporary Romance • European Film • Eastern European Film • Asian Film • Mature Animation • Romantic Comedy • Comedy Drama • Animated Science Fiction & Fantasy
A man tries to return to the woman of his dreams in this amazing fusion of live action and paper cutout animation. Its craftsmanship is something to marvel at, says Graeme Hobbs.
Poor Eugene. He has just met the woman of his dreams - quite literally, as it is only in his dreams that she appears - but how is he ever going to return to the promise of her scarlet lips? Through various methods of inducing more vivid dreams, from overloading on dumplings to instructions in arcane books, he keeps returning to his other world, advancing his relationship with the woman he has always longed for through a perilous dreamscape of libidinous teddy bears, twined and slurping tongues, crocodiles, spilled liquids, apples, serpents and even an Edith Sitwell-headed hen. But does he really want to find out who Eva, or Emily, or Elizabeth or Evgenia really is? What does his wife make of it all? And just who is the omniscient bag lady with halitosis?
Meanwhile his visits to psychoanalyst Dr Holubová reduce her to consternation. After plumbing the depths of his unconscious, to the alternate admiration and consternation of the point-scoring portraits of Freud and Jung on her wall, she can only exclaim that, 'this goes slightly beyond the usual Oedipus Complex!'. Sleeping with his mother and killing his father isn't the half of it.
All this is brought to life in a hi-tech fusion of live action and animated paper cutouts of the characters (the making-of documentary on the disc is a real eye-opener). And anyone who watched the shipwrecked rat banging wooden stakes into Alice's head in vankmajer's Alice knows that he is not one to shy away from wince-inducing moments in his films. And so it is here, as amateur dentistry with pliers makes the eyes water - even if it is performed on paper children.
vankmajer says that he always wanted to make a film in which dreams blended with reality and vice versa, and Surviving Life is a richly rewarding, if rather unsettling, retort to his claim that 'sadly, our civilisation has no time for dreams - there's no money in them'. And although in his wry introduction, a cutout vankmajer says of his 'psychoanalytical comedy' that you won't find much of the latter in it, you will. It's dark - of course it is, it's by vankmajer after all - but through much of it you will be smiling and grimacing in equal measure, marvelling at the man's visual invention, and the craftsmanship with which he animates the workings of his imagination.
Graeme Hobbs on 17th May 2012
Author of 275 reviews
A psychoanalytical cutout comedy, animated by the peerless Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer (Alice, Little Otik, Dimensions of Dialogue), Surviving Life (Theory and Practice) takes Oedipal theory, ties it up in knots and takes it beyond anything Freud imagined!
Eugene is a happily married middle-aged man who becomes obsessed with a beautiful young woman dressed in scarlet who he meets in one of his dreams. But who is she? What is her name? And more importantly, how can he continue to meet her? As he tries all manner of techniques, from dumplings to psychoanalysis, to ensure that he can keep dreaming about the woman, his wife becomes convinced that he is being unfaithful to her. Meanwhile, disputative framed portraits of Freud and Jung look down on Eugene's therapy sessions...
Publisher: New Wave Films
Length: 109 mins
Cat No: NW031
Format: DVD Colour
Subtitles: English , French , German , Spanish
- 3 Background Documentaries
- Alternative Ending