Synopsis: In this latest offering by the great Czech surrealist filmmaker Jan Svankmajer, modern-day Prague is the setting for the story of six ordinary if somewhat seedy individuals who, with almost no dialogue, obsessively and painstakingly prepare their sexual “feasts.”
Like fastidious but inspired chefs, they concoct – with the aid of the most eclectic array of objects, animals, devices and processes – an orgasmic meal of hilarious and literally explosive results. A postwoman, shopkeeper, television presenter, detective and two odd apartment dwellers secretly plunder and pillage their environments in search of their magical ingredients.
As their solitary paths crisscross, we see how Svankmajer condenses the sexual, the social and the political in a society still breaking with the habits of a sexually puritanical past. Svankmajer relates it all with mischievous misanthropy and a brilliant array of live action filmmaking, special effects and animation techniques.
Spiklenci slasti 8.0
eyelights: its quirkiness. its unpredictability. its humour.
eyesores: its low budget quality.
Fetishes of all sorts exist in this vast and strange world; the broadness of human sexuality expresses itself in myriad ways. Like a friend of mine recently told me, any unusual thing you can think of you can find a demand for on the internet somewhere.
But what does one make of ‘Spiklenci slasti’, the 1996 motion picture written and directed by Jan Švankmajer, the same Czech filmmaker who made the trippy ‘Něco z Alenky‘? What does one think of rooster masks, live carp, bread balls, and so forth?
I honestly don’t know.
All I know is that ‘Spiklenci slasti’ is a curiously entertaining film. All silent except for sound effects and music, it shows the expression of six men and women’s secret fetishes – all in a linear, but gradually revealing fashion that’s quite surprising.
It begins with opening credits showing what appears to be medieval-era lithographs of various sexual activities, suggesting that the film will treat a similar subject. However, there is very little overt sexuality to be found in ‘Spiklenci slasti’.
Instead, we are mostly privy to the travails of these intermingling characters as they prepare for their rituals. Their behaviour is exposed in such a way that it’s not only strange, but humourous; we can’t help but chuckle if not laugh outright.
A guy walks into a smoke shop, and buys a porn magazine. The cashier ogles him then turns to soldering something with computer chips. Back at home, the guy peruses the pages of his magazine, gets hot and heavy and decides to go hide in his dresser.
Then the mail carrier pops by. She gives him a letter with a two-word note in it. He is disturbed by it, burns it and runs off to buy some umbrellas. When he returns home, he takes a rooster out of the cupboard, kills it and plucks it to make a mask.
The mask, which is first covered in cutouts from his magazine, is then covered in feathers and painted to looks like a rooster head. While his neighbour’s away, he breaks into her home, and uses her sewing machine to make wings with the umbrellas.
When he’s done he goes outside the city, to the woods, dresses up as a crow, takes out a dummy that looks like his neighour and proceeds to dance around in stop-motion while throwing rocks at her head. When he succeeds in braining her, he crows in victory.
And that’s just one fetishistic journey; there are six of them.
To say that ‘Spiklenci slasti’ is an unusual movie is an understatement: I have seen nothing like it before. Between its characters’ peculiar behaviours, its structure, which keeps us in the dark until the very end, and its stop-motion animation, it’s mind-blowing.
But I love trippy, surrealistic cinema, so I found it extremely enjoyable to watch. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, but human behaviour often doesn’t – and where fetishes are concerned, even more so. So I just sat back laughed at the weirdness.
I also reveled in the creativity involved; Švankmajer not only had to imagine all of this behaviour, he had to weave it in a way that worked – and add his own visionary touches as well. He made reality and fantasy mix together in a quirky but exciting way.
‘Spiklenci slasti’ may seem incoherent to some, but it’s not: there is a clear structure. However, it’s a strange dream bursting with unusual fantasy lives. If anything, it’s the perfect outlet for anyone who finds human behaviour sometimes outrageous.
And often humourous.
Date of viewing: April 7, 2016