четвъртък, 28 юни 2012 г.

THE DIMENSSIONS OF SHVANKMAJER’S UNIVERSE

Shvankmajer’s universe is a dark, absurd and doomed place. He is an artist but also a philosopher, who examines the human soul. In “Dimensions of the dialogue” Shvankmajer is preoccupied with the inability for communication with the Other in archetypical situations, in which he is scrutinizing the different modifications and stages of the intercourse. This is a very pessimistic study of some of the basic types of dialogue between people, which emphasize the possibility of their failure. The fundamental problem that is examined is the lack of understanding. The conflict between the different sides communicating with each other is materialized on the screen through different methods and techniques. EXHAUSTIVE DISCUSSION In the first segment, an exercise on forced congruence, Shvankmajer is “reviving” a painting from Giuseppe Arcimboldo, an Italian painter, who had worked in the High Renaissance. He is best known for his “Fantastic portraits” of human faces, composed by diligently selected and inserted into the picture objects from everyday life, such as fruits, vegetables, flowers or books. These objects often serve as an allegory of the primary elements or the four seasons. Arcimboldo was rediscovered by the surrealists in the twentieth century. When surrealism came into fashion, wide public interest in Arcimboldo’s work was revitalized and he is now considered one of the predecessors of the movement. Using the model of Arcimboldo’s fantastic portraits, Svankmajer creates an allegory of different types of behavior and human tempers, which are destroying one another. A head, made from food, becomes a metaphor of the human being, which expresses the most primitive level of living. This head meets another head that symbolize the technical progress of mankind. The two heads attack each other. Primitivism is destroyed by civilization’s advancement. The head that has won the battle vomits something that is a rough hybrid between the two. That is a clear metaphor of the weaker, accepting the rules, imposed to him by force by the stronger. Afterwards, another head appears. It symbolizes the intellectual and artistic principle in human nature and is made out of papers, pages, writing materials, rulers and pencils. That new head is attacked by the primitive one and is desecrated by it. The act of metamorphosis seems endless. But now the initial logic is altered in order to express the idea of the universal chaos of elements, which form the living matter. The main theme of communication is giving way to another, no less important subject – the essence of the man as a blend of flesh and ideals. Mixtures of piled up and coarsely grounded matter are gradually turning into human faces. The last collision is a parody of the aspiration for perfection – two almost identical heads meet each other. In the last evolution step we see the birth of many copies of the original image. The methods of a repressing totalitarian system, which strives for unification and assimilation of the individual by putting it into ideological frames, are implied in the symbolic act of eating and digestion, expectorating and vomiting of the weaker. PASSIONATE DISCOURSE The second segment is dealing with the relationship between the man and the woman. In an interview about “Last tango in Paris” Bernardo Bertolucci says that “every sexual relationship is condemned” and also that “one destroys itself and even his partner”. Shvankmajer makes his figures of a man and a woman from plasticine. The chosen material refers to the various myths of human creation from clay and accents on the inevitable, archetypical male-female conflict. The figures are situated on the opposite sides of a table. Their kiss turns into a sexual intercourse. Shvankmajer presents this intercourse in a very beautiful and aesthetical way: the two bodies melt and fuse into a homogenous whole. It is a moment of physical and spiritual unity. After the copulation, the figures recover their identities, move away from each other and get back to their indicated positions at the two opposite sides of the table. Then we notice a small shapeless piece, left from the sexual intercourse. This piece from their flesh makes timorous steps towards its parents, but it’s being rejected. The buck passing escalates into a serious conflict, and hatred provokes aggression. The desire to hurt the other is depicted plastically by the numerous wounds the man and the woman are inflicting on each other and the scars that they are leaving on their bodies. Death and sex are showed by the same means of expression: dissolving of the ego and the flesh and fusion. FACTUAL CONVERSATION The third segment deals with the problems of collaboration and dialogue, but there are also satirical political implications. Two heads with the physical features of political figures are interacting on the principle of mutual benefit. In a particular moment this well-working mechanism begins to crack up. The two heads begin to lack coordination and make serious mistakes. But despite all that, the mechanism continues to work under its own momentum until its total self-destruction. The underlying ideas in the segment are presented on the screen in a very ironic and ingenious way by using objects and gestures from everyday life like a toothbrush and toothpaste, a shoe and a shoe-lace, a pencil and a pencil-sharpener; a slice of bread and a knife with butter. The method, used by the Czech director in “Dimensions of the dialogue” is stop-motion. In many of his other movies Shvankmajer interprets such themes as loneliness, freedom, the essence of the human nature and the incapability of people to communicate with each other as well. He sculptures the images of the subconsciousness like fantasies or nightmares with “Kafkaesque” elements of fear, terror and dark absurd. Svankmajer uses his intuition and sensitiveness to create the atmosphere of his movies, but he also uses the absurd like a mind weapon to provoke the viewer to think. In Svankmajer’s art, like in Albert Camus’s essay “The Myth of Sisyphus”, the absurd is born in the confrontation between the human desire for clarification and meaning and the senseless silence of the universe. Svankmajer choses to deal in his work with the existential themes of modernism, which only the biggest geniuses in art, literature and philosophy would dare to tackle. Katerina Lambrinova

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