Šílení

Movie review for "Šílení" by Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Written by Jason Pirodsky
Published on 21.12.2005 20:22 (updated on 21.12.2005)

Review by Jason Pirodsky
for Expats.cz

No beating around the bush: SILENI (English “Lunacy”) is a masterpiece & easily the finest feature Jan Švankmajer has crafted.

Unlike the director´s ALICE or FAUST – which were bizarre in design but generally faithful adaptations of classic tales – Švankmajer here combines the writings of the Marquis de Sade and two Poe stories (“Premature Burial” and “The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether”) to produce his own unique plot. The resulting script is the best that Švankmajer has written: even if we´re familiar with the original tales, we´re always kept off guard in the way they are incorporated into the story – the twists and turns are always unexpected and layered with delicious satire, irony, and black comedy. The plot recalls the various stories of de Sade, such as Peter Brook´s MARAT/SADE or Philip Kaufman´s QUILLS, and the tone recalls an endless number of Poe adaptations, but Švankmajer´s script and direction are consistently surprising. Along with his always exceptional imagery, his story takes us somewhere new and fascinating, and has a lot to say along the way.

Šílení
Rating:
Directed by Jan Švankmajer. Starring Jan Tříska, Pavel Liška, Anna Geislerová, Jaroslav Dušek, Martin Huba, Pavel Nový, Stano Dančiak, Jiří Krytinář. Written by Švankmajer, based on stories from Edgar Allan Poe & the Marquis de Sade.
Showtimes
IMDb link

After a brief introduction during which the director labels the films as ‘a work of horror – with all the degeneracy that the genre implies´, we are taken into a film that few would classify as horror, though none would argue over the degeneracy. Jean Berlot (Pavel Liška) finds himself experiencing nightmares after the death of his mother – nightmares of men coming for him with a straightjacket and taking him away. You see, his mother died in a mental institution (‘at Charenton´, he says, in a nod to de Sade) – and Berlot fears a similar fate. Despite the film (seemingly) being set in present day, the Marquis de Sade (Jan Tříska) shows up, witnesses the physical representation of Berlot´s nightmares, and tells him he thinks he can cure him. I won´t spoil the fun, but after this we are taken to the Marquis´ manor, then to a mental institution where the inmates seem to have taken over the asylum. ‘To cure yourself of your fears, you must experience them´, the Marquis tells Berlot – and thus the story sets into motion, complete with a mad doctor, a beautiful girl, mysterious surgical treatments, a wonderfully ironic scene involving tarred and feathered men taken quite cerebrally from Poe, and yes, all the degeneracy that one could expect from a film that mixes Jan Švankmajer, the Marquis de Sade, and Edgar Allen Poe.

A note about the performances: they´re pitch-perfect, from the best cast that Švankmajer has had to work with, a near who´s-who of contemporary Czech cinema. Especially Jan Tříska, as the Marquis, who reminds me somewhat of crazed Henry Fonda. I can´t imagine another actor who would be able to create such sympathy and madness that Tříska has here with de Sade – and it´s likely the best representation of de Sade put on film (surpassing the performances by Geoffrey Rush and Daniel Auteil in recent films), even if the character isn´t really the Marquis.

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Sprinkled throughout the film are brief sequences of what many will be expecting, and what some may be disappointed by: Švankmajer´s unique stop-motion animation, which here is almost solely devoted to scenes of animated meat, or, if you will, Meatmation – a technique seen in some of the director´s previous shorts, perhaps most notably in MEAT LOVE. Švankmajer (perhaps wisely) doesn´t even attempt to integrate the shots of dancing steaks and ground beef, eyes and tongues crawling back into skulls, etc., into the actual plot of the film, and the resulting tonal shift can sometimes be jarring. But by the end we realize that the meat is a perfect match to the film´s theme. A final scene in a grocery store is beautiful and haunting: a once jovial slab of meat, barely alive, is now packaged and shrink-wrapped, each breath pressing against its plastic cage. A poignant metaphor, and wonderful reflection on how society, and psychiatry, can treat human beings.

By all means, Šílení deserves to be the Czech Republic´s official selection to the 2006 Academy Awards (where it would likely be nominated for, if not win, the Oscar for Best Foreign Film), and the winner of the Czech Golden Lion (as was Švankmajer´s previous film, OTESANEK – a film SILENI is far superior to). Unfortunately, I fear this may not happen. The film fared poorly at the Czech box office, opening at number six and likely gone from most cinemas after its third week of release. That the film won´t rake in millions is a given, and no disgrace – SILENI, as most of Švankmajer´s body of work, is not for everyone. But should the film go under seen and unrecognized, or not receive a theatrical release in the U.S. at all, it will be a true shame.

After Švankmajer´s wonderful and provoking shorts, I had been somewhat under whelmed by his previous four features. Not that they were bad in any sense, but because Švankmajer´s live action scenes always seemed to be upstaged by the animation, and at points I found myself just waiting for the stop-motion. SILENI is different – if anything, the live action is better than the animated sequences, and they work together beautifully to produce a story that combines a compelling plot with a provoking theme.

It´s truly the best film I´ve experienced in years. See it, if and when you can.

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29.3.12:Wrath of the Titans ★★ | The Vow
22.3.12:The Hunger Games ★★★ | Bel Ami ★★★ | We Need to Talk About Kevin ★★★½
15.3.12:The Lorax ★★½
8.3.12:John Carter ★★★ | Haywire ★★★ | The Grey ★★★
5.3.12:The Chemical Brothers: Don’t Think ★★★★
1.3.12:Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance ★★ | The Iron Lady ★½ | The Devil Inside ★
23.2.12:War Horse ★★★½ | The Woman in Black ★★★ | My Week with Marilyn ★★½ | This Means War ★½
16.2.12:The Artist ★★★★ | Shame ★★★★ | Safe House ★★½
9.2.12:The Phantom Menace 3D ★★★ | Man on a Ledge ★★½ | The Ides of March ★★★½ | Jack and Jill ★
2.2.12:Hugo ★★★★ | Chronicle ★★★ | Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy ★★½ | Perfect Sense ★★½
26.1.12:Contraband ★★½ | A Dangerous Method ★★★ | Carnage ★★★ | The Help ★★★
19.1.12:The Descendants ★★★½ | Underworld: Awakening ★★
12.1.12:The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ★★★½ | Machine Gun Preacher ★★½
8.1.12:A Separation ★★★★
5.1.12:Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows ★★★½
29.12.11:The Darkest Hour ★★
22.12.11:The Inbetweeners Movie ★★ | Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked ★½
15.12.11:Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol ★★★
8.12.11:New Year’s Eve ★½ | The Rum Diary ★★★½ | The Thing ★★½
1.12.11:Moneyball ★★★★ | Puss in Boots ★★★
24.11.11:Immortals ★★★
17.11.11:The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 ★★★½ | I Don’t Know How She Does It ★
10.11.11:Real Steel ★★★ | Tower Heist ★★½ | Anonymous ★★½
3.11.11: In Time ★★½
27.10.11:Adventures of Tintin ★★★★ | The Debt ★★½ | Larry Crowne ★★½ | Cave of Forgotten Dreams ★★★½
20.10.11:Paranormal Activity 3 ★★★ | The Three Musketeers ★ | Contagion ★★★½
13.10.11:Johnny English Reborn ★★½
6.10.11:Killer Elite ★★★ | One Day ★★ | Dream House ★½
29.9.11:Friends with Benefits ★★½ | Abduction ★
27.9.11:The Skin I Live In ★★★½
22.9.11:Midnight in Paris ★★★½ | Colombiana ★★½ | Shark Night 3D ★½
15.9.11:Drive ★★★★ | Pina ★★★½ | Crazy, Stupid, Love. ★★½ | Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark ★★½
8.9.11:Super 8 ★★★½ | Final Destination 5 ★★★
25.8.11:Cowboys & Aliens ★★
18.8.11:Conan the Barbarian ★★ | Green Lantern ★★½ | Win Win ★★★½ | Womb ★½
11.8.11:Rise of the Planet of the Apes ★★★ | The Lincoln Lawyer ★★★
4.8.11:Captain America: The First Avenger ★★★ | Horrible Bosses ★★★
28.7.11:Cars 2 ★★½ | Jane Eyre ★★★½ | Bad Teacher ★½ | The Resident ★★
21.7.11:The Tree of Life ★★★★ | The Mechanic ★★
14.7.11:Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ★★★½ | Submarine ★★★½
7.7.11:Hanna ★★★½ | Bridesmaids ★★★½
30.6.11:Transformers: Dark of the Moon ★½
16.6.11:Your Highness ★½
9.6.11:The Hangover Part 2 ★★★ | Paul ★★½ | Skyline ★½
2.6.11:X-Men: First Class ★★★½
26.5.11:Melancholia ★★★★
19.5.11:Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ★★½
12.5.11:Priest 3D ★★ | Water for Elephants ★★★ | Something Borrowed ★★ | Tetro ★★★½
5.5.11: Fast Five
28.4.11: Thor
21.4.11: Source Code | The Eagle | Mr. Nice
14.4.11: Scream 4 | Just Go with It | Unknown | Somewhere
7.4.11: The Way Back | Love and Other Drugs | Jack Goes Boating | I Am Number Four
31.3.11: Sucker Punch | No Strings Attached | My Soul to Take
24.3.11: Limitless
17.3.11: The Dilemma | The Rite | Sanctum
10.3.11: Rango | The King’s Speech
3.3.11: The Adjustment Bureau | Drive Angry 3D
24.2.11: The Fighter | Morning Glory
17.2.11: True Grit | Burlesque
10.2.11: Black Swan | London Boulevard
3.2.11: 127 Hours
27.1.11: The Tourist | Tangled | Chain Letter
20.1.11: The Next Three Days | Gulliver’s Travels
13.1.11: The Green Hornet | Season of the Witch | Another Year
6.1.11: The Kids Are All Right | The Good Heart
16.12.10: TRON: Legacy | Paranormal Activity 2
9.12.10: Megamind
2.12.10: Due Date | The American
25.11.10: The Other Guys | The Switch
18.11.10: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
11.11.10: Howl | Devil
4.11.10: The Social Network | You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger | Saw 3D
28.10.10: Red | Animal Kingdom
21.10.10: Four Lions
14.10.10: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World | Eat Pray Love | Machete
7.10.10: DVD Review: Exit Through the Gift Shop
30.9.10: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
23.9.10: Resident Evil: Afterlife
16.9.10: The Karate Kid | Going the Distance
9.9.10: Největší z Čechů
2.9.10: Step Up 3D | Ondine
26.8.10: Grown Ups
19.8.10: The Expendables | The Sorcerer’s Apprentice | A Serious Man | When You’re Strange
12.8.10: Salt
5.8.10: Get Him to the Greek
29.7.10: Knight and Day | Bunny and the Bull
22.7.10: Inception | Agora
15.7.10: Shrek Forever After | A Single Man | The Rebound | Mr. Nobody
8.7.10: Predators | Letters to Juliet
1.7.10: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
24.6.10: Killers | Solomon Kane
17.6.10: Toy Story 3 | The A-Team | From Paris with Love | The Back-up Plan
10.6.10: The Ghost Writer
3.6.10: Sex and the City 2 | Green Zone
27.5.10: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time | Brooklyn’s Finest | Precious
20.5.10: Hot Tub Time Machine
13.5.10: Robin Hood | Whatever Works
6.5.10: Kick-Ass
29.4.10: Iron Man 2 | The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans | The Road
22.4.10: The Bounty Hunter | The Crazies
15.4.10: Clash of the Titans | An Education
1.4.10: Moon | The Men Who Stare at Goats | Everybody’s Fine
25.3.10: Remember Me | Leap Year | Babylon A.D.
18.3.10: The Lovely Bones | Legion
11.3.10: Daybreakers | Dear John | Mammoth
4.3.10: Alice in Wonderland | Nine
25.2.10: Shutter Island | The Hurt Locker
18.2.10: The Wolfman | Valentine’s Day | Edge of Darkness
11.2.10: The Book of Eli | In Search of a Midnight Kiss
4.2.10: Capitalism: A Love Story | Brothers | The Box | Did You Hear About the Morgans?
28.1.10: Up in the Air | The Fourth Kind | New York, I Love You
21.1.10: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus | It’s Complicated | Black Dynamite
14.1.10: Sherlock Holmes
7.1.10: Fame
17.12.09: Avatar | Whip It
10.12.09: Spread
3.12.09: Zombieland | A Perfect Getaway
26.11.09: The Twilight Saga: New Moon | Antichrist
19.11.09: Paranormal Activity | Law Abiding Citizen | The Time Traveller’s Wife
12.11.09: 2012
5.11.09: My Life in Ruins
29.10.09: This Is It, Love Happens, Halloween II
22.10.09: Fifty Dead Men Walking, Saw VI
15.10.09: The Brothers Bloom, The Ugly Truth, The Final Destination
8.10.09: Surrogates
1.10.09: Julie & Julia, Hunger
24.9.09: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Gamer, Night of the Living Dead 3D
17.9.09: District 9
3.9.09: The Taking of Pelham 123, Man on Wire
27.8.09: Inglourious Basterds, Taking Woodstock, The Proposal
20.8.09: Up, Two Lovers
13.8.09: G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra
6.8.09: Brüno
30.7.09: The Boat That Rocked, Away We Go, Knowing
23.7.09: Crank: High Voltage, Bronson, The Accidental Husband
16.7.09: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Limits of Control
9.7.09: Public Enemies, The Wrestler
2.7.09: Fighting
25.6.09: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
18.6.09: The Hangover, Drag Me to Hell, Zack and Miri Make a Porno
11.6.09: Coraline, The Secret of Moonacre
4.6.09: Terminator Salvation, I Love You, Man
28.5.09: State of Play, Bottle Shock, New in Town
21.5.09: The Last House on the Left
14.5.09: Angels & Demons
7.5.09: Star Trek, Duplicity, 17 Again
30.4.09: X-Men Origins: Wolverine, My Bloody Valentine
23.4.09: Synecdoche, New York, The Reader, Friday the 13th
16.4.09: Gran Torino, Defiance, Hotel for Dogs, Confessions of a Shopaholic
9.4.09: The Visitor, Happy-Go-Lucky
2.4.09: Fast & Furious, Bride Wars
19.3.09: He’s Just Not That Into You, Battle in Seattle, Sex Drive, The Unborn
12.3.09: Seven Pounds, Marley & Me
5.3.09: Watchmen, Doubt
26.2.09: Slumdog Millionaire, The Duchess, The Pink Panther 2
19.2.09: Frost/Nixon, The Spirit, Transporter 3, City of Ember, Bolt
12.2.09: Valkyrie, Milk
5.2.09: The Tale of Despereaux, Bedtime Stories
29.1.09: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Revolutionary Road
22.1.09: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Traitor
15.1.09: Burn After Reading, Yes Man, Che: Part One, My Best Friend’s Girl
8.1.09: Changeling
2.1.09: How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
25.12.08: Australia
11.12.08: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Four Christmases, Paranoid Park, Make It Happen
4.12.08: Bangkok Dangerous, High School Musical 3: Senior Year
27.11.08: Twilight, Body of Lies
20.11.08: Death Race, Repo! The Genetic Opera, The Strangers
13.11.08: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
6.11.08: Quantum of Solace, The Women
30.10.08: Max Payne, Nights in Rodanthe, The Other Boleyn Girl
23.10.08: Vicki Christina Barcelona, The Forbidden Kingdom
16.10.08: Nightwatching, Taken, Juno
9.10.08: Elegy, Mirrors
2.10.08: Eagle Eye, Disaster Movie
25.9.08: 2 Days in Paris
18.9.08: Tropic Thunder, Star Wars: The Clone Wars
04.9.08: Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Journey to the Center of the Earth
28.8.08: You Don’t Mess with the Zohan
21.8.08: Funny Games U.S.
14.8.08: WALL•E, Meet Dave, Then She Found Me, The Orphanage
7.8.08: The Dark Knight, Mamma Mia!
31.7.08: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
24.7.08: The X-Files: I Want to Believe
17.7.08: The Incredible Hulk, Shine a Light, Be Kind Rewind, Nim’s Island, Made of Honor
10.7.08: Get Smart
3.7.08: Kung Fu Panda, Hancock
26.6.08: Wanted
19.6.08: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Forgetting Sarah Marshall
12.6.08: The Happening, My Blueberry Nights
5.6.08: Sex and the City, Penelope
29.5.08: 21, Untraceable
22.5.08: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
15.5.08: What Happens in Vegas
8.5.08: In Bruges, Speed Racer
1.5.08: Iron Man, Paris, je t’aime
24.4.08: Into the Wild, Fools Gold, Wedding Daze, Superhero Movie
17.4.08: Breath, Frontier(s)
10.4.08: Horton Hears a Who, Doomsday, Vantage Point, Sleuth
3.4.08: In the Valley of Elah, The Bucket List
27.3.08: There Will Be Blood, 27 Dresses
20.3.08: Resurrecting the Champ, Reservation Road
13.3.08: Control, 10,000 BC
6.3.08: 3:10 to Yuma, Jumper
28.2.08: No Country for Old Men, Step Up 2 the Streets
21.2.08: Before the Devil Knows Youre Dead, Rambo, The Eye
14.2.08: National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Charlie Wilsons War, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
7.2.08: Sweeney Todd, We Own the Night, The Kite Runner
31.1.08: Atonement
24.1.08: The Darjeeling Limited, Cloverfield
17.1.08: Michael Clayton, Lust, Caution, Love in the Time of Cholera
10.1.08: Eastern Promises, I Am Legend
3.1.08: American Gangster
20.12.07: P.S. I Love You
13.12.07: The Golden Compass, Hitman
29.11.07: Across the Universe, Beowolf, Balls of Fury, Halloween
22.11.07: Shoot Em Up, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
15.11.07: The Heartbreak Kid, Resident Evil: Extinction
8.11.07: Lions for Lambs, The Last Legion
1.11.07: 30 Days of Night, The Invasion, Sicko, The Good Shepherd
25.10.07: Once, Superbad, Feast of Love, The Seeker
18.10.07: The Brave One, A Mighty Heart
11.10.07: The Kingdom, 1408, Becoming Jane, Snow Cake
4.10.07: Knocked Up
27.9.07: Stardust, Grindhouse, Gympl
20.9.07: I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Evening, Disturbia
13.9.07: Ratatouille, The Hoax, No Reservations
6.9.07: Rush Hour 3, Day Watch, Medvidek
30.8.07: The Bourne Ultimatum, Irina Palm
23.8.07: Hairspray, Planet Terror, Evan Almighty, Interview
16.8.07: Transformers
9.8.07: Mr. Brooks, Pans Labyrinth, Surfs Up
2.8.07: Fracture, Venus, Next
26.7.07: The Simpsons Movie, Angel
19.7.07: Harry Potter 5, The Good Night
12.7.07: Inland Empire, Factory Girl, The Messengers, Hostel 2
5.7.07: Death Proof, Oceans 13, Miss Potter, Fantastic Four 2
28.6.07: Live Free or Die Hard
21.6.07: Pathfinder, Curse of the Golden Flower
14.6.07: Shrek the Third
7.6.07: Hot Fuzz, Zodiac, Because I Said So
31.5.07: Premonition, Black Book
24.5.07: Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End
17.5.07: The Number 23
10.5.07: Renaissance, The Painted Veil, Wild Hogs, Epic Movie
3.5.07: Spider-Man 3, Copying Beethoven, Sherrybaby
26.4.07: Shooter, The Reaping
19.4.07: Sunshine, Alpha Dog, TMNT, Perfect Stranger
12.4.07: The Hill Have Eyes II, Norbit
5.4.07: Stranger Than Fiction, Notes on a Scandal, Meet the Robinsons, Red Road, Blood & Chocolate
29.3.07: Flags of our Fathers
22.3.07: 300, Sketches of Frank Gehry, Black Christmas
15.3.07: Ghost Rider, Music and Lyrics, Feast, Employee of the Month 
8.3.07: The Fountain
1.3.07: Rocky Balboa, School for Scoundrels
22.2.07: Little Children, Babel, Dreamgirls, Hannibal Rising, The Darwin Awards
15.2.07: Smokin Aces, The Queen
8.2.07: The Last King of Scotland, Pursuit of Happyness, and Crank

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