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notably of human heads. that recall the Prague legend of the Golem. a man created from the mud of the riverbank. Svankmajer‘s art is that of the alchemist (particularly apt in Faust) who creates something new from apparently dissimilar ingredients by a process of magic and science; it is also that of the filmmaker as contemporary puppeteer (again apt considering his approach here).

‘The puppet is the ideal symbol of manipulation because when it moves. you see the strings.‘ he agrees. ‘Without those strings. it is without movement. I think we are all of us manipulated in some way or another stars or dreams or whatever. We come

to the world with certain predispositions that we‘re programmed with in some way. by our education. by our time. by our society. Civilisation would probably collapse if it didn‘t use manipulation. that‘s why I‘m also against civilisation in my creative work. We all have to die one day. so the end ofthe programme is given but. by fighting against this manipulation. we can at least make our lives more decent and tnore noble.‘

Svankmajer‘s Faust (played by Czech actor Petr Cepek but voiced by Andrew Sachs) spends much of his time on a stage. debating with angel and devil puppets who. importantly. are seen to be worked by the same pair of hands. His Mephistopheles is the protagonist’s exact image and alter-ego. created from an alchemist‘s furnace that Faust himself sets in motion with his breath. On several perfectly interwoven levels. the freedom of will of every human

being is questioned. ‘A work of

imagination has many levels of

meaning and there is room for many

interpretations.‘ Svankmajer concludes.

‘In the creative process. there is a

conscious and a subconscious level.

When a film is finished. l always find

myselfdiscoven‘ng new things in it. just as we stand in front of our dreams

Czech animator and contemporary surrealist Jan Svankmajer tells Alan Morrison about his distinctive vision for


The legend of Faust has fascinated writers and artists throughout history. each filtering the archetypal story of man‘s over-reaching quest for knowledge through the primary concerns of the age. Goethe‘s Romantic creation. whose exceptional qualities shine as he stages his revolt against fate. is not Marlowe‘s Renaissance man. tied to the religious conventions ofthe day. Nor is he the figure who has emerged from three centuries of Czech marionette theatre as a veiled symbol for the political rebel. Master animator Jan Svankmajer has taken elements from these and other versions of the myth for his second feature—length work (after l987‘s Alice). portraying Faust as an ordinary man from the streets of Prague. who is made to confront a destiny already laid out for him.

‘There are no words in the film other than dialogues from these original sources.‘ Svankmajer explains. ‘and l selected those which seemed to be very topical. People are manipulated into this role ofthe Faustian rebel. but create a paradox because they don‘t fight against it. It‘s like a revolt on one‘s knees. and in that I see a certain resonance with our time. in the sense that people are no longer capable of standing up and protesting against something.‘

Much of Svankmajer’s work has a political dimension. and his critiques of the Communist system that dominated his homeland for years caused him to ‘rest‘ from cinema for most ofthe 70s. His style is very much in a surrealist tradition. breaking down barriers between the real world and a dream- am We are the authom Of those like state by breathing life into ; dreams bl" We don't CXGCU)’ know inanimate objects and placing them in What they mean-' everyday situations to jam-mg effect. To ; Faust. Film/rouse 1. Mon 15. 6.30pm this he adds claymation techniques. and Came" 1' T“? 23- 6151"".


I Ladybird, Ladybird Ken Loach returns to the gritty social docu-drama style he pioneered with Cathy (,‘mne Home in what is sure to be one of the most controversial films of the year. Maggie has her four children (all fathered by different men) taken from her by Social Services on account ofa violent relationship with a former boyfriend but. when she tries to start a new family with gentle Latin American refugee Jorge. past circumstances again conspire against her. Traumatic viewing. but in no way sentimentally manipulative. it pits one woman’s stubbornness against an unfeeling system. (AM) Ladybird. Ladybird. Cameo 1. Sun [4. 8.30pm and Film/rouse 1. Mon I 5, 2.15pm. ,"' , nu;


1, *4- .,


u" I I”, \ if. , v; ';*/’d I The Ballad Of liarayama Among the most respected Japanese filmmakers of his generation. Shohei lrnamura remains best known in the West for this earthy saga of rural peasant life. winner ofthe Palme D‘Or at Cannes in 1985. Seen within the context of Edinburgh‘s welcome retrospective. it still stands as a characteristic work. chronicling the superstitions ofan isolated community to try to get to the heart of what makes Japanese society so unique. Based on an old folk tale. it charts the efforts of an ageing mother to find a wife for her son before tradition decrees that she herself must be left on the local mountain-top to die. (TJ)

The Ballad Of Narayama. Cameo 1. Mon [5, [.30pm. lmarnura Retrospective. consisting of the largest collection of his works ever screened outside Japan. continues throughout the Festival.

The List l2—l8 August I994 71