VIFF Film & Television Trade Forum
On Saturday, September 30, Sarah Caufield, host of Monday’s No Show, saw Lunacy, the latest film by the Czech surrealist filmmaker Jan Svankmajer, presented as part of the Vancouver International Film Festival. With dancing meat and insane asylums, this is what she left with.
What do pieces of meat on a mission, enlivened eyeballs, and insanity have in common? Well, maybe everything in the world, maybe nothing at all. It’s hard to tell. One this is sure, however, they’re all integral parts of Svankmajer’s latest film, Lunacy, which is playing at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival. Svankmajer is one of the Czech Republic’s predominant surrealist filmmakers, with a particular affection for stop-motion animation. He also has an appreciation for subjects that will make an audience squirm, and with Lunacy, he makes no exception. Taking a closer look at insanity, its treatment in society, and the methods by which we “help” the sick people, the film is full of humour so dark that isn’t afraid to make the audience squirm.
Before Lunacy begins, Svankmajer comes on-screen to introduce the film. He tells us that it’s a horror film. He tells us what happens. He gives credit to Edgar Allen Poe and the Marquis de Sade for inspiration. And he tells us pretty much what will happen all the way through. He doesn’t aim to surprise. Rather, his films titillate, provoke, and leave viewers sorting out what they’ve just seen. With Lunacy, one never knows who’s sane and who needs help, and we’re left reconsidering our own thoughts about sanity.
The filming is, as always, a treat, though you may find yourself feeling somewhat wary of eating meat for the next few days – lifeless carcasses have never had so much energy. If you didn’t get to see the film at the Festival, do look for it on video in the future. It’s not everyone’s sort of film, but if you prefer your horror as discomfort, rather than shock, this will most certainly please you.
Jan Svankmajer’s Lunacy is only one of the films at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, which runs from September 28 until October 13. For more information, check out the festival’s website at http://www.viff.org