High Anxiety

Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer puts the fear of art onscreen

Czech yourself: The trippy icky of 'Faust'
Zeitgeist Films
Czech yourself: The trippy icky of 'Faust'

To Svankmajer cultists, Little Otik's predictability may seem a bit off-putting: The film unfolds like a Venus flytrap, making irrational behavior comprehensible in context. For once, Svankmajer reins in his psyche, concealing more than he reveals. When Otik's flailing wooden limbs and vagina dentata finally emerge, the effect is more Alien than Little Shop of Horrors. Like all of his features, Little Otik dramatizes the materialization of desire, yet its subtext resists definitive parsing: As the surrealist himself has said, "Without secrecy there is no art...All the [interpretations] you have are right." The reading with the most currency, however, would need to take cloning into account. In Little Otik, Bozena and Karel happen upon the secret of creation--and for the egotism of challenging the laws of nature, payment is due in full.

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