Today: February 28, 2024

Surviving Life

Anything can happen in dreams, but regardless of how bizarre, surreal or unlikely the occurences are, they usually seem to make total sense.

Anything
can happen in dreams, but regardless of how bizarre, surreal or unlikely the
occurences are, they usually seem to make total sense.
It’s only
when you wake up and try to explain the dream to someone else you struggle to
remember how everything once fitted together so snugly. You get something of
the same feeling in Jan Svankmajer’s
most recent offering, Surviving Life: you get swept up with
it as it goes along, but it almost defies explanation once it is finished. As
you watch it, it seems almost reasonable that portraits of Jung and Freud
bicker with each other on a psychoanalyst’s wall or that giant toads are
leaping in and out of building windows. Try to draw these details into a
coherent narrative though, and you soon run into trouble.

This, of course, is the point of Svankmajer’s ‘psychoanalytic
comedy’. The absurd, the crass and the unbelievable intermingle, creating
confusion over what’s happening in the real world and what are ‘simply’ dreams.
A mild mannered middle-aged man, Evžen (Václav
Helšus
) becomes entranced by a beautiful woman that appears in his dreams.
Bored and worn-out by the troubles of everyday life, Evzen escapes into his
dream world where he begins an affair with this woman, Evzenie (Klára Issová).
The boundaries between life and dream start to crumble, however, when Evzenie
gets pregnant.

Those familiar with Svankmajer’s earlier work will find the usual
directorial devices, as he combines cut out animation and live action
filmmaking. For those new to the Czech filmmaker’s work,
expect Terry Gilliam-esque images. Surreal, satirical and sexual, Surviving
Life asks whether our assumption that waking life is ‘real’ and dreams are just
make believe is sustainable.

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