Saturday, 11 December 2010

Little Otik by Jan Svankmajer (2000)...

'Updating a popular children's fable, leading Czech surrealist Jan Svankmajer's latest is a compelling and highly contemporary social satire. Inventively combining live action with characteristically macabre stop-motion animation' (Jason Wood, BBC Films).

I finally got to watch Little Otik yesterday, thanks to the recommendation of Alan and Ruben, and it certainly doesn't disappoint. Using the set that can be recognised in his 'Down in the Cellar' short, as well as some of the same actrs/characters, Little Otik is based on the filktale 'Otesanek' by K J Erben. This 2 hour long film begins with a poor couple who are both infertile unable to have a baby. One day the man pulls a tree root from the ground and sees a baby like figure in there, deciding to further enhance that idea by cutting the extra roots to make it more baby-like. From here-on-in, we switch between the story a little girl reads about Otesanek, almost playing the narrator, and the real life story of the couple which resembles the book.

It takes a little while for Little Otik to get into its stride, with the live action story in the beginning slightly dull and uninteresting. However, this could have been because of my expectations of Svankmajer's work and the fact that i just wanted to see his stop-motion animation in action. So when it finally came around, i wasn't disappointed. This film was really weird, surreal and scary throughout, but the best examples of this were in the stopmotion animation. Svankmajer does really well to bring the 'tree stump' to life as Little Otik causes mass destruction, eating everything and anything. In particular, the mouth of Little Otik was so scary and the paedophile gave me the creeps, again. The little was so strange and uncanny, reading about sexual dysfunctions, which i'm pretty sure isn't a normal thing for a young girl. Overall, Little Otik has an enticing story, uncanny characters, a baby-like tree stump and more masterclass examples of Svankmajer's stopmotion animation. So if that's not enough to make you want to watch it, i don't know what is.

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