Don’t miss this exclusive premiere of legendary Czech filmmaker Jan Švankmajer’s swan song, Insects, followed by a discussion with the artist. The screening begins with the artist's very first film The Last Trick, in which two magicians try to outdo each other in performing elaborate magic tricks. We then jump 54 years ahead to Švankmajer’s final film, which follows a troupe of amateur actors as they rehearse a production of Czech brothers Karel and Josef Čapek’s 1921 ‘The Insect Play’. The satirical source work imagines a world in which insects behave like humans, and humans behave like insects. In Švankmajer’s film we see the actors’ personal lives slowly blend with the characters they portray.
The Čapek brothers' play ‘The Insect Play‘ is a misanthropic play. My screenplay only extends this misanthropy, as man is more like an insect and this civilization is more like an anthill. One should also remember the message behind Kafka's ‘The Metamorphosis’.
The Last Trick [Poslední trik pana Schwarcewalldea a pana Edgara] 1964, 35mm, colour, sound, 12 min
Insects [Hmyz] 2018, DCP, colour, sound, 98 min, Czech with English subtitles
The screening is followed by a conversation between Jan Švankmajer and Krzysztof Fijalkowski, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Norwich University of the Arts specialising in the history and theory of Surrealism.
About Jan Švankmajer
Jan Švankmajer (b. 1934, Czechoslovakia) is a filmmaker, writer and artist based in Prague. He is connected with the collective activities of the Czechoslovak surrealist group. He studied stage design and puppetry before beginning to experiment with creative filmmaking techniques at Prague’s Magic Lantern Theatre in the 1960s. The artist has since made seven features including Alice, Faust and Lunacy, and a number of short films, including Jabberwocky. His films often use stop-motion and claymation techniques and combine a surrealist imaginary with black humour. Švankmajer’s works have been influential to a generation of filmmakers including Terry Gilliam and the Brothers Quay.