Sunday, 14 March 2010
Jiri Barta - Na Pude
I have featured the work of Czech animators - Jiri Trnka and Jan Svankmajer - in previous posts. I am, as my regular readers already know, a fan of both animation (especially stop-frame animation) and the Czechs who excel in it. A recent discovery for me has been the work of Jiri Barta, thanks to my son John for introducing me. Barta, to the relief of all who think that there is more to animation than computer generation, last year produced his first full-length film since The Pied Piper of Hamelin in 1985. Barta belongs to that dark surreal adult school of animation which includes Svankmajer and the Brothers Quay, and the Pied Piper certainly was dark.
But times have changed - dark artistic films aren't the type that get funded any more. For years Barta sought funding for a film about the Golem. In the end all he managed to produce was a trailer, which you can see on youtube or here
The new film called Na Pude (In the Attic) is geared to the children's market, however this isn't by Disney, thank goodness. Yes, in the film the discarded toys who live in a typical Czech attic set out to save their kidnapped friend (a doll) from the diabolical Head and his deformed followers, so there are some superficial similarities to Toy Story. But in this film there is a real sense of threat, the Head could easily be out of a Svankmajer film and his insect and monster sidekicks can be creepy in every sense of the word. Being stop-motion puppets you have a sense of the characters being tactile. There is even a roughness about them which appeals; these are after all the discarded toys of a childhood before Playstation and they have been broken and discarded and it shows.
The films has delightful moments of invention such as the snowstorm caused by old pillows and duvets hanging as they usually do in Czech attics to air or dry. Having some knowledge of Czech customs and culture does help in my appreciation of the film, for example there is a wonderful example of how product placement can work in the hands of a creative genius - Koh-I-Noor pencils, wax crayons and eraser appear in all sorts of guises. But you don't have to be a Czechophile to love this film, it is delightful and refreshing. Don't take my word for it, you can see the trailer on the film's website - http://www.napude.com