When I was about 10 I saw Time Bandits for the first time--and I had never been so confused in my short life. As I watched writer/director/animation legend Jan Svankmajer's Faust, I was transported back to that time when confusion reigned supreme. Lovingly made and wonderfully ugly, Faust is undeniably striking. A sort of dream logic drives the story forward (albeit circuitously), incorporating many strange and troubling images along the way: ballerinas raking hay, a marionette cum blow-up doll sequence, and of course the ever-present Mephistopholes.
But the spellbinding and bizarre world Svankmajer's fashioned distracts so much from the central drama that the transformation of Dr. Faust into a repentant-but-doomed Everyman is lost--and with it, the story's mythic tragedy. However, if you're a fan of Svankmejer's animation (which recalls the work of the Brothers Quay, who are big fans of Svankmejer's themselves), baffling Eastern bloc artiness, or symbolism with a capital "S," you will not be disappointed. Otherwise, you may be left wondering if Faust's eternal punishment was to watch this film over and over again in hell.
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