Monday, June 04, 2007

LUNACY/SILENI - God is a monster; art is dead; the lunatics are running the asylum and they are our only hope of liberty

A young man, Jean, is plagued by nightmares in which he suffers his mother's fate: he is placed in a straight-jacket by two menacing asylum guards. By chance he meets a strange old man who calls himself the Marquis and dresses and acts like Sade. For an hour we see the Marquis act out elaborate scenes with Jean as an unwitting and repulsed victim. But the Marquis has benign intentions. He hopes to liberate Jean from his nightmares by confronting him with his fears. Jean is give the option of voluntarily entering an asylum that has been taken over by its inmates.

LUNACY is the latest film from Czech surrealist, puppet-maker and film-maker, Jan Svankmajer. His films are self-declared political statements: surrealism in opposition to the Soviet obligation for realism. More practically, LUNACY is an unconventional riff on stories by Edgar Allen Poe and Sade. It's avowed intention is to repulse, to shock and to accurately depict a world gone mad. To this end, beautifully designed live-action footage shows the asylum and its in-mates. This is interspersed with stop-motion animation of fleshy tongues, eye-balls and brains pulsating and squelching through houses and workrooms. Flesh seems to have a "mind of its own". And obeying the desires of the flesh in a sort of rebellion against the tyranny of society.

The combination of black comedy, horror, live-action and animation yields a movie that is the bizarre, funny and disturbing. It is without a doubt the most provocative and inventive film I have seen this year, and is not to be missed.

LUNACY opened in the Czech Republic in 2005 and in Japan and Slovakia in 2006. It is currently playing in the UK. It is also available on Region 1 DVD.

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