USF Libraries
USF Digital Collections

Communication, consumption, and manipulation


Material Information

Communication, consumption, and manipulation the body as language in the films of Jan Švankmajer
Physical Description:
Dowd, Amanda Marie
University of South Florida
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Dimensions of dialogue
Czech Republic
Dissertations, Academic -- Humanities -- Masters -- USF   ( lcsh )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


ABSTRACT: Communication, Consumption and Manipulation: The Body as Language in the Films of Jan Švankmajer Amanda Marie Dowd Abstract In this thesis I will analyze and discuss the work of renowned director Jan Švankmajer. Specifically, I will examine how director Jan Švankmajer's representation of the body creates a metaphorical language. In addition, I will address what meaning can be gathered from, or made apparent through the commentary of the body's language and discuss the significance of the socio-political implications. Prior to my discussion of Švankmajer's work I will give a concise socio-political history of the Czech Republic from 1968-1994; this discussion will provide a framework for the subsequent analyses. In order to provide support for my argument, I will discuss the relationship between Švankmajer's work and Michael Foucault's theory of the "body politic", Patrick Fuery's theory of the "cinematized body" and Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of the image of the grotesque body. After discussing the implication of these theories I will discuss three of Švankmajer's films in order to specifically address the ability of the grotesque body to subvert discourses of power and how the socio-cultural environment has an impact on Švankmajer's choice of body representation. The films I discuss include Dimensions of Dialogue (1982), Food (1992) and Faust (1994).
Thesis (M.L.A.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references.
System Details:
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System Details:
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Amanda Marie Dowd.
General Note:
Title from PDF of title page.
General Note:
Document formatted into pages; contains 66 pages.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 002069473
oclc - 608497053
usfldc doi - E14-SFE0003264
usfldc handle - e14.3264
System ID:

This item is only available as the following downloads:

Full Text
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 standalone no
record xmlns http:www.loc.govMARC21slim xmlns:xsi http:www.w3.org2001XMLSchema-instance xsi:schemaLocation http:www.loc.govstandardsmarcxmlschemaMARC21slim.xsd
leader nam 2200385Ka 4500
controlfield tag 001 002069473
005 20100422113940.0
007 cr mnu|||uuuuu
008 100422s2009 flu s 000 0 eng d
datafield ind1 8 ind2 024
subfield code a E14-SFE0003264
NX620 (Online)
1 100
Dowd, Amanda Marie.
0 245
Communication, consumption, and manipulation :
b the body as language in the films of Jan vankmajer
h [electronic resource] /
by Amanda Marie Dowd.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 66 pages.
Thesis (M.L.A.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
3 520
ABSTRACT: Communication, Consumption and Manipulation: The Body as Language in the Films of Jan vankmajer Amanda Marie Dowd Abstract In this thesis I will analyze and discuss the work of renowned director Jan vankmajer. Specifically, I will examine how director Jan vankmajer's representation of the body creates a metaphorical language. In addition, I will address what meaning can be gathered from, or made apparent through the commentary of the body's language and discuss the significance of the socio-political implications. Prior to my discussion of vankmajer's work I will give a concise socio-political history of the Czech Republic from 1968-1994; this discussion will provide a framework for the subsequent analyses. In order to provide support for my argument, I will discuss the relationship between vankmajer's work and Michael Foucault's theory of the "body politic", Patrick Fuery's theory of the "cinematized body" and Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of the image of the grotesque body. After discussing the implication of these theories I will discuss three of vankmajer's films in order to specifically address the ability of the grotesque body to subvert discourses of power and how the socio-cultural environment has an impact on vankmajer's choice of body representation. The films I discuss include Dimensions of Dialogue (1982), Food (1992) and Faust (1994).
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Advisor: Maria Cizmic, Ph. D.
Dimensions of dialogue
Czech Republic
Dissertations, Academic
x Humanities
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
4 856


Communication, Consumpti on and Manipulation: The Body as Language in the Films of Jan vankmajer by Amanda Marie Dowd A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Liberal Arts Department of Humanities and Cultural Studies College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Maria Cizmic, Ph.D. Annette Cozzi, Ph.D. Margit Grieb, Ph.D. Date of Approval: November 6, 2009 Keywords: Dimensions of Dialogue Food, Faust Grotesque, Czech Republic Copyright 2009, Amanda Marie Dowd


Dedication For the women who inspire me. Emme Brig itte Carl, I will always remember the joy of Hoppe hoppe Reiter and the frightening lessons of Der Struwwelpeter ; thank you for passing on the pleasant memories of your childhood in Germany. Dolores Inneia Lowe, I never grew tired of your amazing st ories and delicious r ecipes; thank you for teaching me the true nature of compassion and patience. Evelyn Patricia Gorman, words cannot express my love for you mom; thank you for teaching me that as long as you work towards your goal, you can achieve anything. La st, but certainly not least, for you Innea Greene Kersey; you bring life to all objects. Your laughter and love fill me with the confidence Ive been in search of fo r so long. Youre my favorite girl.


Acknowledgements I express sincere appreciation to my thesis committee members, Dr. Maria Cizmic, Dr. Annette Cozzi and Dr. Margit Grieb for their guidance and insight throughout the research and writ ing process. I would also lik e to thank the faculty and staff of the Humanities and Cultural Studies Department, for all of their encouragement and support. I express my endless thanks and appreciation to my family for understanding, motivation and patience. Thanks to Katie Hallman, the listening ear of a friend is priceless. Thank you Tom, for continuously working with me towards the dream we both share; you have and always will be an inspiration to me.


i Table of Contents List of Figures ............................................................................................................... ...... ii Abstract ...................................................................................................................... ........ iii Introduction .................................................................................................................. ........1 A Renowned Director ...........................................................................................3 From the Prague Spri ng to the Velvet Divorce; Socio-Political Turmoil .............6 The Spectacle of the Body ..................................................................................12 Chapter Summaries .............................................................................................18 Chapter One: Bodies Breaking the Silence ........................................................................20 A Failure to Communicate ..................................................................................21 Chapter Two: Consuming Bodies .....................................................................................33 Table Etiquette ...................................................................................................34 Chapter Three: Manipulating Bodies .................................................................................51 Lecke Faust ( The Lesson of Faust ) Synopsis .....................................................52 The Grotesque Body and Manipulation .............................................................55 The Message of Faust ........................................................................................59 Works Cited ................................................................................................................... ....64


ii List of Figures Figure 1. Giuseppe, Arcimboldo. Summer 21 Figure 2. Jan vankmajer, Exhaustive Discussion 21 Figure 3. Jan vankmajer, Passionate Discourse 25 Figure 4. Jan vankmajer, Passionate Discourse 27 Figure 5. Jan vankmajer, Factual Dialogue 29 Figure 6. Jan vankmajer, Breakfast (active and sitting man) 35 Figure 7. Jan vankmajer, Breakfast (cow tongue) 36 Figure 8. Jan vankmajer, Breakfast (utensil dispenser) 37 Figure 9. Jan vankmajer, Lunch 42 Figure 10. Jan vankmajer, Dinner 44 Figure 11. Jan vankmajer, Dinner (severed hand) 45 Figure 12. Jan vankmajer, Dinner (severed leg and foot) 46 Figure 13. Jan vankmajer, Dinner (severed breasts) 46 Figure 14. Jan vankmajer, Dinner (severed penis) 47 Figure 15. Jan vankmajer, Faust Clay Head of Mephistopheles 55


iii Communication, Consumpti on and Manipulation: The Body as Language in the Films of Jan vankmajer Amanda Marie Dowd Abstract In this thesis I will analyze and disc uss the work of renowned director Jan vankmajer. Specifically, I will examine how director Jan vankmajers representation of the body creates a metaphorical language. In ad dition, I will address what meaning can be gathered from, or made apparent thr ough the commentary of the bodys language and discuss the significance of the socio-political implications. Prior to my discussion of vankmajers work I will give a concise so cio-political history of the Czech Republic from 1968-1994; this discussion wi ll provide a framework for th e subsequent analyses. In order to provide support for my argument, I will discuss the relationship between vankmajers work and Michael Foucaults th eory of the body politic, Patrick Fuerys theory of the cinematized body and Mikhail Bakhtins theory of the image of the grotesque body. After discussing the implication of these theories I wi ll discuss three of vankmajers films in order to specifically address the ability of the grotesque body to subvert discourses of power and how the so cio-cultural environment has an impact on vankmajers choice of body represen tation. The films I discuss include Dimensions of Dialogue (1982), Food (1992) and Faust (1994)


1 Introduction Director Jan vankmajer is regarded as one of the most successful surrealist filmmakers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. Li ving in the city of Prague since 1934, vankmajer draws inspir ation from a rich variety of sources, including the citys cen turies old puppet theater tradition, dark folklore, and the turbulent political climate. vankmajer seamlessly combines the surreal, Czech folklore and grotesque images to create unique works that leave the spectators re-evaluating the normal order of ones self and surroundings. A master at animation and depicting the unreal, vankmajers work is often examin ed solely through the lens of surrealist aesthetics. Little of the scholarly literature pays specific attention to the relationship between the oppressive and often violent totalitarian regime that vankmajer lived under for most his life and his choice of conten t and means of representation. When sociocultural environment is discussed in scholarly l iterature it is only mentioned as a slight influence on vankmajers ultimate goal of portraying the surreal. Scholars tend to overlook the often obvious political statements made in vankmajers films (Hames, Dark Alchemy 7-42, 96-114; OPray Surrealism, Fantasy and the Grotesque 252-253; Uhde, The Unsilvered Screen 60-62 ) One author who does approach vankmajers work through a socio-political lens is Paul Wells. Wells examines the relationship between socio-cultural context and the nature of bodily function a nd representation in vankmajers work. Wells specifically


2 addresses three areas of in terest, including the body in transition, the body as mechanism, and the body under threat (W ells 177). Wells carefully examines vankmajers treatment of the body in terms of the materials used, observing that vankmajer often portrays the body with materi als such as clay or inanimate objects. Wells believes the transition of the physical material vankmajer uses to create the human form differs from the standard re presentation of the body, thus resulting in a connection between the body and social change or transition. Wells pa ys special attention to vankmajers representation of the body in the film Dimension of Dialogue (1989), specifically, the way the body symbolizes a mech anism within a larger oppressive class structure. In his analysis, Wells concentr ates on the way vankm ajer intentionally dehumanizes the body in order to portray it as an automata within a social environment. According to Wells, vankmajer creates a di alogue about social and political control through the representati on of the body as being vulnerable to manipulation and control. Wells argument addresses that social commenta ry exists in vankmajers films, but there is little consideration to the way in whic h the body signifies that commentary (Wells 187). In order to fully understand the implica tions of vankmajers bodies, I will build upon Wells work in this thesis. I will ar gue that the body serves as a metaphorical language in vankmajers films and that th is language makes commentaries by way of grotesque imagery. I will examine how the commentary made by vankmajers bodies has a unique relationship to the socio-poli tical situations that occurred during vankmajers life in present day Czech Republic. A brief history on vankmajer and a c oncise explanation of Czechoslovakias period of normalization and the Velvet Revolution will provide a framework for


3 understanding the implications of the commen taries made by the bodies. A discussion of Foucaults theory of the polit icized body, and its relationshi p to Fuerys theory of the cinematized body will provide a basis for understanding how the body can both receive and transmit social control and power. Af ter discussing this aspect of the body, the discussion will focus on the importance of the way in which the body can resist this social control; for this discussion Bakhtins theory of the grotesque image of the body will be discussed. Three of vankmajers films will be analyzed, in order of discussion they are Dimensions of Dialogue (1982), Food (1992) and Faust (1994). A Renowned Director Born to a middle class family in Czec hoslovakia, Jan vankmajers exposure to the visual and creative arts began at an ea rly age. At the age of eight, vankmajer received a puppet theatre as a Christmas gift; this would mark the beginning of a lifelong fascination with puppetry. As vankmajer grew older his interests led him to study at the College of Applied Arts in Prague. vankmaj er was introduced to Surrealism for the first time while studying at the colleg e; this encounter would even tually lead to vankmajer joining the Czech Surrealist group in 1972. After studying at the College of Applied Arts, vankmajer received accepta nce into the esteemed Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. While at the academy, vankmajer studied experimental theatre, stage design and assisted with play producti ons consisting of both live acto rs and marionettes. He also studied the avant-garde film s of famed Soviet director s Dziga Vertov and Sergei Eisenstein, as well as Surrealists Lu is Buuel and Salvador Dal (Hames Dark Alchemy 7-42, 99; Uhde The Unsilvered Screen 60-61).


4 Exposed to a world of mixed media thea ter, vankmajer was often involved in performances that included puppets, ballet, and most importantly, film. vankmajer explains his ideas on the creative pos sibilities of film at the time: That's where I first had access to film-making, and discovered that film has three major advantages over theatre. One, actors can't spoil it for you once you get it into the editing room. Two, film can wait for its public; theatre can't. Three, film time is so much faster than theatre time. It took ages in the theatre to transform one picture, one composition, into another. The fast, speeded-up time of film made that easy; that was my luck, and I've never returned to theatre. (Hames, Dark Alchemy 99) Shortly after his time with the theater group Laterna Magi ka, vankmajer produced his first film, The Last Trick (1964). vankmajer incorporated theater and puppetry in the film by portraying the lead characters as lif e-sized marionettes. The story unfolds as two magicians compete to out-do each others tr icks and eventually start to destroy one another. The Last Trick serves as the earliest portrayal of vankmajers tendency towards disturbing themes (Hames, Dark Alchemy 96-114; OPray Surrealism Fantasy and the Grotesque 252 253; Uhde, The Unsilvered Screen 60 62). In 1972, after writing a script for The Castle of Otranto, Jan vankmajer was banned from producing films by the Czechoslova k Communist Party. It is likely that the decision of the party came as no surprise to vankmajer. Many of his previous works were censored, banned or locked in vaults as a direct result of the normalization of Czechoslovakia that followed 1968. The enforced silence prohibited vankmajer from continuing his work as a director but this seven year span of time was filled with tactile


5 experimentations, visual art and producing props. When the authorities decided to allow vankmajer to resume his work as a film director in 1980, it was under the condition that the themes of his work be based on literary classics. While complying with these conditions, vankmajer produced his interp retation of Edgar Allen Poes classic The Fall of the House of Usher (1980). However, it would not be long before vankmajer abandoned the guidelines and created a film that addressed the nature of constraint and communication (Hames, Dark Alchemy 96-114; OPray Surrealism Fantasy and the Grotesque 252 253; Uhde, The Unsilvered Screen 60 62).1 The disparity between the Czechos lovak Communist Partys imposed conditions and vankmajers following film Dimensions of Dialogue (1982) is of considerable proportion. Despite having suffe red the consequences of displeasing the party officials in the past, v ankmajer created a film that lacks any connection to the theme of a literary classic. In contrast to the party guidelines, the film blatantly rejects traditional narrative and subject matter. Subsequently, Dimensions of Dialogue was not only banned from being viewed, but used by the Czechoslovak Communist Party as an example of what was completely unaccep table in film production. vankmajer's characters arent spouting out anti-communist rhetoric, or displaying sympathies towards Western ideals, yet the film was found to be intolerable and was used to show others within the party what was to be consider ed unacceptable for the public eye (Hames, Dark Alchemy 97). 1 For a comprehensive biographical history and filmography see Hames, Dark Alchemy ; OPray Surrealism Fantasy and the Grotesque 252 253; Uhde, The Unsilvered Screen 60 62.


6 In spite of displeasing the authorities, vankmajer was allowed to continue his work; this is due to some exte nt to the lack of dialogue in vankmajers work. Much of the literary and ente rtainment censorship that took place in Czechoslovakia depended on a written manuscript being read by the censor (ime ka 54). Most of the films produced by vankmajer in the years following Dimensions of Dialogue typically exhibited little spoken dialogue; therefore what appeared on paper could be deemed acceptable. However, vankmajer himself attests to the fact that the chances of his films being approved and released after being viewed ul timately depended on the ideology of the censor (Hames, Dark Alchemy 115).2 From the Prague Spring to the Velv et Divorce; Socio-Political Turmoil vankmajers work was undoubtedly in fluenced by the turbul ent socio-political climate during his lifetime in the present day Czech Republic. In order to provide a framework for analyzing his work, it is im perative to give a br ief history of the monumental events that unfolded duri ng the directors time in Prague. Czechoslovakias move towards a democratic form of socialism in the mid 1960s led to a surge in political reforms and a relaxa tion of the restrictiv e authority on cultural practices. The Prague Spring, as it is known today, gave citizens the hope of economic prosperity and a return to a rich cultural life; however, this hope would be short lived. Czechoslovakias public battles surrounding reform proved to be too unpredictable for the Soviet image of solidarity that Br ezhnev required. The Central Committee of 2 See Faradays Revolt of the Filmmakers for more information regarding film censorship in the Soviet Bloc.


7 Czechoslovakia suffered from a division that pr oved to be fatal to its functioning. Some committee members pushed for reform, others were staunchly against it, and some fell in the center, thus creating the im pression of disorder. In the short span of three years, the citizens of Czechoslovakia experienced a di sorienting amount of political turmoil that ended with the invasion of Soviet troops in August 1968 and a subsequent restoration of order known as normalization (Williams 146). The primary objective of the Soviet i nvasion was to replace the disordered leadership with what Brezhnev considered the healthy core of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, that is to say, the committee members who were completely against the reform process (Williams 116). However, Brezhnev knew the importance of keeping a popular leader such as Dub ek in place to ease the initiation of normalization. For this reason, Dub ek would remain as party leader until April 1969, and it was under his leadership that the citizens of Czechoslova kia complied with the request to stand down from their protests and oblige the Soviets. Dub ek appealed to the people by assuring them that if they stopped demonstrating resi stance to the Soviets, the occupying forces would soon leave and the party would resume its path of reform. Having faith in Dub eks word, the protests came to an end; unfortunately the peopl e of Czechoslovakia didnt realize that their faith in the reform movement would ultimately lead to the return of complete authoritarian rule (Williams 144 146). The first objective of the normalization process was to replace what the Soviets considered unhealthy sources within the party (Williams 156). This operation began with the top leading officials and quickly reached all members. Previous to the invasion,


8 Brezhnev was familiar with the conservative members of the Presidium that he felt would be able to carry out the daunting task of normalization; with this information in hand, Brezhnev appointed new leadership positions, yet allowed Dub ek to remain as party leader. From this point, the process of normalization would infiltrate every sector of the party; the screening or inve stigations began at once and co ntinued for as long as it took to eliminate any members who were less th en conservative. While the process of normalization would have an effect on every aspect of Czechoslovak society, the Soviets knew that in order to achieve proper normalization the most cr itical order of business was restoring complete control over the media (ime ka 52; Williams 147). The task of restoring strict order over the media proved to be unproblematic due to the general compliance of Czechoslovak society to the invading forces. However, this compliance would not save the numerous liber al news programs a nd publications that openly criticized the party prior to the invasi on; almost instantly, familiar news programs, magazines and newspapers went out of production and publication (ime ka 52). In addition to the disappearance of the liberal media, the new outlet of information would come directly from the top party official s and spread throughout the country through a system of national and local outlets that essentially repor ted identical stories. The screening of the media began at the highest level with the firing of management, but it didnt stop there; many writers, actors, ra dio voices, songs and popular films were completely banned from the public. Many of these unlucky individuals were forced to work in occupations that were completely unr elated to their experience, manually intense and underpaid. This quick and decisive act of normalization was put in place not only to stop the spread of liberal information, but also to serve as an example of the severity of


9 the Soviets intentions for the restorati on of Czechoslovak society. From this point forward, with the media serving as the first example, all matters were approached from the strict guidelines of the party; any de viation from the given path would end with unsympathetic disciplinary action. The complete elimination of the liberal media and the misinformation the new media reported served as example of what the party was willing to permit (ime ka 55). Milan ime ka specifically describe s how the restoration of order and complete control over the media pr ovided the people of Czechoslovakia with a guide of what was acceptable. It allows people to establish some sort of standard by which to judge everyday matters: a simple ideological rule of thumb for circumspect behavior. The ordinary citizen learns from graphic examples in the media, what is allowed and what is not; what the state rewards and what it punishes; who are friends and who are enemies; what is black and what is white. (55) With normalization under way, Czechosl ovakias issues surrounding reform all but disappeared, and as ime ka described, the future of domestic issues would be one free of complex ideas or choices on the behalf of the ordina ry citizen. The party made it very clear what was acceptable in all aspect s of society, and its for this reason that censorship was almost unnecessary by the end of the normalization process. Writers, producers, and newspaper companies no l onger had to worry about editing the information that passed through their media channel; it was clearl y understood that any information that deviated from official pa rty script was banned and whoever produced such information was blacklisted. While the need for censorship dramatically decreased


10 as a result of normalization, the authorities we re always vigilant a nd ready to act when faced with the production of unhealthy media (ime ka 52; Williams 146). The legacy of the Prague Spring resided in the hearts of Czechoslovakian citizens until late 1989 when revolution spread like wildfire across the Soviet Bloc. In contrast to the idea of merely reforming a socialist gov ernment, the revolutionaries of 1989 wanted democracy and a free market economy. With th e revolutions of Poland, Hungary and the fall of the Berlin wall in th e preceding months, the citizen s of Czechoslovakia took the opportunity to complete the East European break from socialism. With peaceful and even visually pleasing demonstrations consisting of flowers and candle lit protests, Czechoslovakias uprising came to be known as the Velvet Revolution. Also known as the Artists Revolution, this ti me would be marked with noteworthy figures of the arts taking on leadership positions, most notable of which would be the presidency of an accomplished author, Vaclav Havel (Vogt 54). For the citizens of Czechoslovakia the tr ansition to a democratic government and free market economy was riddled with strife which ultimately led to many feeling ambivalent about their new freedom of choice (Vogt 105). The economy was unstable and most of the new goods that were available were too expensive for the majority of the public to buy. With fresh memories of a time in which things were predictable, its logical that citizens would be both optimistic in their prognosis of the future, but at the same time disappointed and longing for certain ty. The Velvet Revolution was barely two years behind them when the people of Czec hoslovakia experienced yet another upheaval in late 1992, the Velvet Divorce. The Velvet Divorce is a term for the separation of


11 present day Czech Republic and Slovakia that made up Czechoslovakia. This separation occurred without incident, in fact most ci tizens had no idea that it was going to happen and didnt feel that it was even necessary (Dryzek and Holmes 242). The separation came as a result of the diffe rent directions that the prime ministers of each respective region were heading in and the restrictive constitution under which they operated. Czech Prime Minister Klaus and Slovak Prime Minister Me iar had very different ideas about the future of the de mocratization their re spective states. Prime Minister Klaus wanted to make sure the tr ansition to a free market economy was rapid, thus furthering the transition into a completely democratic society; Prime Minister Me iar however, wanted to take things slowly during the pe riod of transition. Having to act under the same constitution led to many disagreements and roadblocks for both regions; so it was decided by the federal parliament to separate the territories.3 Ironically, in an effort to become more democratic, the government ultimately made this choice and took it away from the people. Despite this sudden separation of territories, the Czech Republic had what many scholars consider to be the smoothest transition into democracy of all the former communist countries.4 This is often attributed to the nations previous history as a democratic nation. Before the ear ly to mid twentieth cen tury, the Czech lands were a successful democracy. It was not until the Nazi occupation of 1938 and the subsequent Soviet take over in 1948 that the citizens e xperienced the harsh life under totalitarianism (Dryzek and Holmes 240). W ith democracy as part of their cultural 3 For a more complete history of the Democrati zation of Czechoslovakia see Dryzek and Holmes, PostCommunist Democratization 4 Though there are differences of opinion surrounding the transition, Vogt 247; Dryzek and Holmes 240250; and Kavan and Palou 78-91; agree that the C zech Republic was distinctively successful in their transition to democracy.


12 history, it can be said that even though the generation of the Velvet Revolution never knew what it was to have freedom of choi ce, they felt obligated to reinstate it.5 The Spectacle of the Body When discussing the implications of th e bodies within vankm ajers work it is necessary to discuss the way in which vankmajer is able to create commentaries on specific socio-political situat ions by way of body representa tion. In order to provide a frame work for such analysis I will discu ss and summarize the theories that apply. Foucaults theories of discourse, and in particular the theory of the body politic found within Discipline and Punish: Th e Birth of the Prison establishes a basis for understanding the investment of the body as a symbol of social order and control. When describing the ways in which th e body can be studied Foucault states, The body is also directly involved in a political field; power relations have an immediate hold upon it; they invest it, mark it, train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs. This political investment of the body is bound up, in accordance with complex reciprocal relations, with its economic use; it is largely a force of production that the body is invested w ith relations of power and dominationthe body becomes a useful force only if it is both a productive body and a subjected body. (26) Foucault continues to describe how the political investment of the body can be demonstrated in different ways. Some ways include actual acts of violence against the body, while other forms of control take on an organized or calculated character that do 5 For more information regarding the cultural identity of present day Czech Republic and Slovakia see Cravens Culture and Customs of the Czech Republic and Slovakia and Travnickova 78-84.


13 not use force against the body, such as the la yout of industrial factories or the way in which a soldier is trained into a specific stature. It is important to explain that in either case the body can transmit and receive social control and power. Foucaults analysis focuses on the shift from public forms of control such as the spectacle of the scaffold to the birth of the prison, a comparatively pr ivate form of control. In his discussion, Foucault describes the way in wh ich the spectacle of the sc affold serves as a primary example of how the body can transmit th e knowledge of power. Long before the construction of the modern day prison and the regulations surrounding capital punishment, public execution was a widespread practice. Foucault ar gues that the most important factor in transmitting the knowledge of power through public execution is the creation of a spectacle based on the infliction of torture a nd pain on the body. According to Foucault, the gathering of witnesses to an execution was necessa ry in order for the public to receive the message of power and control; this was a message sent from the sovereign forces at play within any given c ountry (Foucault 50). Foucault describes in detail the relationship between the spectacle of the scaffold and the powers that be: Its aim is not so much to re-establish a bala nce as to bring into play, as its extreme point, the dissymmetry between the subject who has dare d to violate the law and the all-powerful sovereign who displays his strength. (48) Foucault continues his discussion by exam ining the decline of public execution in favor of a more humane and subsequently mo re private form of punishment, that of the prison. According to Foucault, with the loss of the public executi on the knowledge of power would ultimately be transmitted through the body in a more organized and


14 calculated way (Foucault 138). Foucault states Discipline is a po litical anatomy of detailThe meticulousness of the regulati ons, the fussiness of the inspections, the supervision of the smallest fragment of life and of the body will soon provide, in the context of schools, the barracks, the hospita l or the workshop, a laicized content, an economic or technical rationality for this mystical calculus of the infinitesimal and the infinite (140). Foucault makes it clear that the body can transmit the knowledge of power in a considerably diffe rent and altogether subtler way than the spectacle of physical punishment. While the organized power structures that F oucault describes are still intact today and the spectacle of the s caffold has altogether disappeared, it can be said that the spectacle of the scaffold has been replaced with a modern day equivalent, the spectacle of the scr een (Foucault 148; Fuery 84). Similar to the public executi on, the body on film creates a spectacle that demonstrates the knowledge of both power and control. According to Patrick Fuery in New Developments in Film Theory the body instantly comes under certain forms of control when being filmed, such as how the body is positioned in a certain place or time, as well as its actions and appearance. Fu ery specifically addresses the relationship between cinema and the knowledge of power: [c]inema itself is part of these power relations, it cinematises the body by positioning it within specific structures, and in doing so participates in these processes such as investing the body with pa rticular traits, trai ning it to represent certain relationships, marking it with specific effects and meanings, and emphasizing its signifying possibilities These cinematized bodies are also


15 producers of knowledge of knowledge about the body, and about other fields of knowledge. (84) This knowledge will inevitably be different from one culture to the next, but the underlying issue is the role of the cinema as a discourse. With this in mind, it is important to clarify that the body as it appears on screen has the ability to comply with, subvert, or resist the knowledge of power that is already in place within a given culture. Fuery continues his discussion by focusing on the th emes or fields of knowledge that are produced by the cinematized body, such as desire and alteration. In each example the body can either reinforce or resist the exis ting knowledge of power, and when resisting, the body is able to produce alternate meanings or truths; this is of great significance when considering the way in which vankmajer repres ents the body in his films (Fuery 84). In order to completely understand how the body can resist the knowledge of power invested in it, I will discuss the theories of Mikhail Bakhtin in Rabelais and His World Mikhail Bakhtins study of Rabelais focuse s on the semiotic functions both within and outside of the work of the author. Bakhtin is interested in the relationship between different sign systems within Rabelais work and the old and new bodily canon (320). According to Bakhtin, the depiction of the body found in medieval lite rature or the old bodily canon is in a constant state of tr ansformation, with protruding body parts, and exaggerated features, all of which can devour and regurgitate these parts to create a second body/life (322). However, the depic tion of the body in literature from the Renaissance forward, or the new bodily canon, is intact an d individual (321). According to Bakhtin, for around four hundred years the old bodily canon of European


16 literature was filled with grotesque imagery be fore the advent of a new depiction of the body emerged. Such grotesque imagery consisted of figures of human and animal traits, excessive features, all of whic h are involved in bodily func tions such as eating, drinking and bodily elimination (Bakhtin 321). Cultural ideas of the grotesque have exis ted for centuries across all cultures and have a profound influence on art, folklore and the extra-official life of the people (Bakhtin 319). Bakhtin discu sses how the image of the grotesque body also contributes to humour and mockery, citing the countless deroga tory terms associated with the parts of the body that comprise the grotesque image, such as the anus and buttocks, the belly the mouth and nose (Bakhtin 319). Bakhtin desc ribes the imagery in the new bodily canon, which is in stark contrast to that of the old: All orifices of the body are closed. The basis of the image is the individual, strictly limited mass, the impenetrable faade. The opaque surface and the bodys valleys acquire an essential meaning as the border of a closed individuality that does not merge with other bodies and with the worldThe verb al norms of official and literary language, determined by the canon, prohibit all that is linked with fecundation, pregnancy, childbirth. There is a sharp line of division between familiar speech and correct language. (320) As Bakhtin describes, the body of the new canon displays an i ndividual body that reinforces the correct language and in many ways exhibits a substantial amount of control (Bakhtin 320). When considering Bakhtins ideas concerning the new bodily canon it is


17 imperative to examine how they relate to Foucaults theory of the body politic and Fuerys theory of the cinematized body. Both Foucault and Bakhtin examine the poi nt at which the treatment of the body changes in a significant way. For Foucault, the focus of the analysis is situated in the change from public execution a nd the spectacle of the scaffol d, to the birth of the prison, a private, orderly form of bodily control. For Bakhtin, the focus of the analysis is located in the change from a bodily canon consisti ng of considerable freedom when using language associated with the body, to a restri cted use that places bodily function in a space separate from society. In both cases, the body has been placed under a considerable amount of privacy and control, both in the way it is punished and the way it is depicted in language and literature. When considering th e way in which Foucaults theory of the body politic is applied to cinema, creating what Fuery considers the cinematized body, Bakhtins theory of the old and new bodily canon significantly contributes to the explanation of how the cinematized body can e ither reinforce or s ubvert discourses of power (Bakhtin 321). When the spectator is presented with a body that falls within the standard depiction of the new bodily ca non, the body reinforces that depiction and subsequently the discourse of power associat ed with it (Bakhtin 321). However, when the spectator is presented with a bodily image th at exposes the grotesque, or the parts and functions of the body that have been restricte d, a sense of uneasiness comes into play due to the image resisting the standard depictions. It is in this grotesque depiction that the body is able to produce alternate meanings or truths. By depicting the body similar to the old bodily canon, vankmajer creates a sense of uneasiness in the spectator due to the fact that this representa tion of the body is uncommon and has over time become


18 synonymous with unpleasant and improper notions The grotesque depiction of the bodies in vankmajers work draws the spectator in a nd forces him or her to pay attention to the interactions of the bodies. In paying attention to the body a nd its interactions, each film focuses on a specific type of action or interaction by and between bodies. Chapter Summaries Chapter one will focus on vankmajers ab ility to create nonverbal dialogue by depicting the bodies of Dimensions of Dialogue with grotesque imagery In my discussion I will argue that vankmajers use of grotesque imagery of the body emphasizes the act of communication. By empha sizing this act vankmajer also draws attention to the inability of the bodies within the film to effectively communicate. After having discussed the bodys ability to se rve as a metaphorical language and its subsequent commentary, I will discuss the implications of that commentary in relation to the socio-political situation occurring in Czechoslovakia dur ing the period of normalization and its debilitating effect on the ability to openly and effectively communicate. In chapter two I will continue the discu ssion of vankmajers ability to create a metaphorical language through the image of the grotesque body. This discussion will focus on the film Food and while focusing on the same metaphorical language, it will become apparent that the emphasis lies on th e act of consumption, rather than failed communication. Again, I will discuss the implications of the bodys commentary, but in relation to the socio-political situation a nd the sentiment of ambivalence felt by Czechoslovakian citizens follo wing the Velvet Revolution.


19 Chapter three will focus on one of vankmajers first feature length films, Faust While the film does incorporate a limited amount of spoken dialogue, vankmajer once again turns to the body as a means of expression. In Faust the metaphorical language of the bodies emphasizes various acts of manipulation, thus drawing attention to forms of control and agency over ones body. The comme ntary of the bodies found in this film will be discussed in relation to the socio-cu ltural transition of the Czech Republic after a major revolution and subseque nt division of territories.6 6 For reviews of vankmajers work including, but not limited to the titles above see Grant 135-152; Newman 84-85; OPray, Between Slapstick and Horror 20-23; Shera 127-144; Strick 40-42; Udhe, The Bare Bones of Horror 16-25.


20 Chapter One Bodies Breaking the Silence As the title suggests, Dimensions of Dialogue is based on different kinds of communication, and yet there is no spoken dialogue in the film. In lieu of spoken dialogue, it can however be said that after a long silencing, vankmajer uses the body to speak. Focusing on the directors attention regarding the relationship between the body and communication, I will argue that vankm ajer uses the body as a metaphorical language, and by depicting the image of the grotesque body, he draws attention to and comments on failures of communication. A uni que relationship exists between the commentary of vankmajer's bodies and the complex issue of the diminishing ability to openly and effectively communicate in Soviet ruled C zechoslovakia. The bodies in Dimensions of Dialogue are placed in situations regarding communication, yet the representation of the body resists any recognized form of conversation; vankmajer achieves this with the construction of the body and the action between bodies. vankmajer produced Dimensions of Dialogue a 12 minute animated film, while living in his native city of Prague The film is comprised of three segments, each with a separate title in the following order: Exhaustive Discussion Passionate Discourse, and Factual Conversation Each of the segments has the common thread of


the failures of conversation and interaction, yet they are a ltogether different in their compositional elements. A Failure to Communicate In the first segment, Exhaustive Discussion, the spectator is presented with three heads that repeatedly consume one another in a most destructive manner. The material make-up of these heads takes on a style si milar to that of Giuseppe Arcimboldos mannerist paintings, mainly in their individual inanimate parts, such as food or manmade utensils creating a whole which is the head (see Figures 1 and 2). Figure1: Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Summer Figure 2: Jan vankmajer, Exhaustive Discussion This curious representation of the hu man head, with its emphasis on individual parts creating a whole, is, according to Ba khtin, one of the primary forms of the grotesque body: Of all the features of th e human face, the nose and mouth plays the most important part in the grotesque imag e of the body; the head, ears, and nose also acquire a grotesque character when they adopt the animal form or that of inanimate 21


22 objects (316). The first head that appears on screen is made up of separate pieces of food: items such as cooked chicken, cauliflo wer, cabbage, lemon, and potato come close together to form the head. Just as the spect ator sees the head of food moving across the screen, another head appears; th is head is made of mainly manmade or metal objects such as pots, pans, silverware, scissors, salt sh akers, rubber bands and bristle brushes. The action soon occurs when the head made of ma nmade objects swallows the head of food and subsequently demolishes the food. Through a series of quick close-up shots the spectator views potatoes bei ng destroyed by scissors, sugar cubes being crushed by a wrench, bread being smashed by a colander and cabbage being torn apart by keys; this is to name but a few of the shots of the overall scene of destruction. After the de struction occurs, the head morphs into a head made up of both the food and manmade objects, but this image only appears for a moment when the head regurgitat es the smashed food, subsequently forming a separate head of f ood that appears less than appetizing. Once the food has left the head of manmade objects, this head begins to m ove across the screen; its not long, however, before another head comes along, this one made primarily of office stationary. Once more the process of devouring a nd destruction begins, this time with the head of stationary supplies swallo wing that of the manmade objects. In a rapid succession of close-up shots the spectator views the destruct ion of materials, su ch as pot lids being smashed by books, graph paper destroying a shaving brush, an envelope enclosing thimbles and smashing them up. Again, the head s come together to make one being just before that head regurgitates the manmade materials that are now severely damaged and unusable. This process of devouring and purging continues in a varied manner for a short


23 amount of time, before the regurgitated heads sl owly form into clay and take on a similar appearance to one another. The clay heads continue the process, ultimately creating heads that cannot be differentiated fr om one another until this segm ent of the film comes to an end. Bakhtin describes in detail how this repe titious act of swallowi ng in order to create another form is of great significance when presenting the grotesque body: The grotesque body, as we have often stressed, is a body in the act of becoming. It is never finished, never completed; it is con tinually built, created, and builds and creates another body. Moreover, the body swallows the world and is itself swallowed by the world. (317) With Bakhtins words in mind, it is evident that vankmajer undeniably presents the spectator with grotesque images of the head. In doing so he presents the spectator with an image that draws their attenti on to the bodys interac tions; in this case, the focus of the bodys interactions is destructive. By continuously devouring and regurgitating, the bodies demonstrate a breakdown of communicati on that leads to mutual destruction. The first point of interest within this segment is the material used to create each head. The first head is constructed of vege tables and poultry, both of which can be found on a farm. For the spectator living in Czechoslovakia at the time of the films production, a reference to both food and farming would be loaded with political implications, specifically the problematic issue of food shortage due to the collec tivization of agriculture in the Soviet Union. During the Pr ague Spring the future of collectivization was somewhat unknown, many regulations were loosened and some reformists pushed for de-collectivization, but this idea was ultimately cr ushed when the period of


24 normalization began. The second head presented to the viewer is constructed of manmade metal objects such as, pots, pans and utensils. These objects are directly associated with the push by the Soviet Union towards the industr ialization of all its pa rtys states. Lastly, the spectator is presented with a head com posed of stationary supplies; these supplies directly correlate with all attributes of of fice work, and subsequently with the state of bureaucracy. The second and most important point of inte rest in this segmen t is the interaction between the three heads. As previously described, the heads engage in an act of destruction by devouring and regurgitating one another. The firs t act of dest ruction takes place when the head of agriculture is destroyed by the head of industrialism, this leads to the subsequent destruction of industrialism by the head of bureaucracy. This continuous act of devouring and regurgitating signi fies a breakdown of communication and cooperation between the three sy mbolic heads. The inabilit y of these three sects of Czechoslovak society to e ffectively communicate and work harmoniously played a significant role in the events leading up to the Prague Spring, specifically in the issue of reform. The citizens and the leaders of Czec hoslovakia were desperately pushing for the reform of systems that were dysfunctional. This was apparent in both the countrys economic hardships and the inability of the leaders to make changes in a government laden with bureaucratic stagnation. All effort s for reform came to an end when Brezhnev and other top Soviet leaders could no l onger tolerate the publicity surrounding the debates, and decided upon an imposed normalizat ion. This point leads us to the end of the segment when the act of devouring and regur gitating produces clay figures that are formal representations of the human head; these heads do not devour but do regurgitate


an identical head in an act that takes on the appearance of an assembly line. The spectator is witness to the restoration of order and individuality to the grotesque body when the heads upon the assembly line become formal re presentations of the human figure, closed off, non-protruding. This orderly body co rrelates directly wi th the period of normalization, a period that was dominated by si lence and the false appearance of order. The segment titled Passionate Discourse begins with a medium shot of two realistic full body clay figures sitting at a ta ble, one male, and one female. As seen in Figure 3, neither figure has hair and both ar e undressed. After a close-up of the males smiling mouth and the females eyes slowly blinking and her head nodding in acceptance, the two figures touch hand to hand and engage in a kiss. At this point their heads begin to meld together and shot by shot the viewer watches the bodies ble nd together at each touch and embrace until the bodies have come t ogether in a symbolic act of lovemaking. Just as Bakhtin described the old bodily canon in which the body is depicted as being free of bodily limitations, the two bodies are free in their interactions, without regard to the constraints of society (Bakhtin 318). Figure 3: Jan vankmajer, Passionate Discourse 25


26 During this interaction there is little distinction between man and woman, only brief glimpses of hands touching, or a face in ecstasy, which allow the viewer to perceive this as an act of lovemaking. The bodies lose all distinctive char acteristics of human anatomy as they form one animated lump of clay. Bakhtin describes how this melding of the human form creates the image of the grotesque body: The grotesque body has no faade, no impenetrable surface, neither has it any expressive features. It represents either the fertile de pths or the convexities of procreation and conception. It swallows and generates, gives and takes. Such a body, composed of fertile depths and procreative convexities is never cl early differentiated from the world but is transferred, merged, and fused with it. (339) Bakhtins description of the grotesque body as being composed of fertile depths and procreative convexities leads us to the latter part of this segment when the two bodies break apart into their separate male and female forms. Again, the figures are seated at the table, but there upon the table sits a small anthropomorphic figure. This figure waddles over to the female and tries to gain affection with a soft and playful touch, but the female is not receptive and she pushes the figure aw ay and towards the male. The small clay figure lands on the males hand, and within a second or two the male forcefully pushes the figure off the edge of the table where it struggles to climb back onto the table. Once on the table, the small clay figure again trie s to approach the female only to narrowly escape her hands trying to smash it. Then a close up of the males hand shows a gesture of welcome, but upon arrival to the males hand, the small clay figure is flung at the females chest, landing directly between he r breasts. In a rapid movement, the female picks up the small lump of clay and flings it at the males face. The following shot is a


close-up of the females face smiling with accomplishment just before the males hand comes into the frame and tears a ch unk of her face off (see Figure 4). Figure 4: Jan vankmajer, Passionate Discourse The series of shots that follow are filled with images of the male and female grabbing at one another, endi ng in their mutual destructi on. According to Bakhtin, The events of the grotesque sphere are always developed on the boundary dividing one body from the other and, as it were, at their point s of intersection. One body offers its death, the other its birth, but they are merged in a two-bodied image (322). Bakhtins statement directly correlates to the interaction of th e three clay figures; ou t of the interaction between male and female there is concepti on, and with conception there is destruction and death. The bodies of this segment emphasize the inability to take responsibility for ones actions, and with actions substituting word s, it is clear that these two bodies are not effectively communicating. In this segment the spectator is pr esented with a commentary on the complex issues surrounding freedom of expression in So viet ruled Czechoslova kia. As previously 27


28 described, this segment depicts a male and fe male in the symbolic act of lovemaking; their bodies join together creating odd and grotesque imagery. During this act the bodies are effectively stripped of the power that has been invested in thei r form and appropriate interaction; the most obvious way this o ccurs is found in the representation of lovemaking. The bodies appear naked, and the ac t itself leaves little to the imagination; both of these elements were not considered appropriate in Czechoslovak film during this time (Hames, The Czechoslovak New Wave 132). Their motions are fluid and the interactions seem effortless and carefree. It is only after the two bodies separate into their individual and representationa l forms that there appears to be a consequence to this symbolic act of freedom: the conception of a child. Neither the male nor female has an interest in the child. Both attempt to pass the responsibility to the other, thus leading to the ultimate failure of communication when the tw o resort to an act of violence that leads to their mutual destruction. Again, the action that unfolds in this segment correlates to the events of the Prague Spring, a period when the citizens of Czechoslovakia experienced an unprecedented amount of freedom. Take for example the uncensored media, government relaxation of regulations on business, reforms and the freedom of protest. Just as the two figures fail to take responsibility for their act ions, it is also true th at many of the leaders of Czechoslovakia failed to take on the full responsibility of thei r actions within the reform movement. Take for example, Dub eks failure to present the reform movement to Brezhnev in a manner that would allow th e government of Czechos lovakia to remain in control. In addition to Dub ek, there were several leaders involved in the reforms that denied responsibility, thus si ding with conservatives and even tually aiding the process of normalization.


In the segment titled Factual Dialogue the spectator is presented with an opening medium shot of a small wooden table with a drawer. The drawer opens and out of it comes a medium sized lump of clay. The clay lump climbs onto the table and separates into two heads; each head is similar in that it is gendered as male, bald and has bulging eyes that are made of fiberglass to appear realistic. Once the heads are situated on the table, each mouth opens and an object comes out This repeats in a series of semi rapid shots; in the first series of shots the items that protrude from the mouth match one another in their use. For example, the first set of objects is a toothbrush and toothpaste, the second a piece of bread and butte r, third a shoe and its laces, and the final a pencil and a sharpener. In this series of shots the two objects interact according to th eir proper use, such as butter spread onto bread and toot hpaste onto the toothbrush. Once each set of objects has interacted, the head s switch places on the table and another series of semi rapid shots begins, this time the objects interact with each other in a mismatched way. For example, the bread receives a pair of shoe laces; the butter is sp read onto the pencil, and the shoelace is put into the sharpener (see Figure 5). Figure 5: Jan vankmajer, Factual Dialogue 29


30 This series of shots grows more and more grotesque with the la rge red tongues (actual cow tongues) of the two clay heads sticking out further away from the mouth, and with the messy mixture of objects. In the follo wing statement Bakhtin describes how the bulging eyes and the mouths protruding objec ts contribute to th e depiction of the grotesque body. The grotesque is interested only in protruding eyesIt is looking for that which protrudes from the body, all that seeks to go out beyond the bodys confines. Special attention is given to the shoots and branches, to all that prolongs the body and links it to other bodies or to the world outside. Moreover, the bulging eyes manifest a purely bodily tension. But the most important of all human features for the grotesque is the mouth. It dominates all else. The grotesque face is actually reduced to the gaping mouth; the other features are only a frame encasing this wide-open bodily abyss. (316) In the case of the two clay heads, the mout hs open up to reveal objects of the world, and the objects extend themselves to one another. In the next series of shots the interaction between the objects become more violent and de structive. Each object is matched with its identical object, for example, toothbrush to toothbrush, bread to bread. With this placement the objects interact in a violent manner leading to their mutual destruction. As this destruction occurs the camera switches to a medium shot of the heads, which at this point have become cracked and worn dow n due to the exhaustive interaction. The segment ends with the two grossly misshapen heads positioned towards the spectator, both with their mouths wide open, tongues hang ing out and panting. In this segment the image of the grotesque body emphasizes th e way in which comm unication can slowly


31 deteriorate into chaos. As the two heads inte ract, their ability to communicate effectively diminishes to a debilitating degree. In this final segment the spectator is presented with a commentary on the diminishing ability to effectively communicate. As described in the analysis, the segment consists of two representational male clay heads that project object s from their mouths. These objects interact with one another in a process that deteriorates from harmonious to complete exhaustion. Initially the objects that come in contact match one another and work together as implied by th eir traditional function, such as bread and butter, pencil and sharpener. This interaction only la sts temporarily, and soon the objects are mismatched and their interaction becomes c onfusing and dysfunctional. Eventually the objects interact with an iden tical object, and they proceed to mutually destroy one another, leaving the two heads badly missh apen and exhausted, therefore unable to communicate. This interaction is interesting in a distinctive way; the importance is found in the diminishing capacity of the objects to effectively work together or communicate. This idea correlates to the exha usting nature of the reform movement for both the leaders and citizens of Czechoslovakia. Initially th e move towards reform was accepted amongst most of the countrys leaders and a vast majo rity of its citizens; it was only after the Soviets applied pressure that the communi cation between party members started to deteriorate. In addition, there was a loss of open communication between the government of Czechoslovakia and its citiz ens in regards to how rapi dly the Soviets expected a restoration of order without ha ving to assist; when the Soviet s assisted with an invasion and period of normalization, the citizens were at a loss as to an e xplanation of how and


32 why this occurred. Unfortunately, the leaders and citizens of Czechoslovakia also arrived at a point where communicat ion was no longer possible. vankmajers representation of the grotes que body clearly draw s the attention of the spectator to the inability to effectiv ely communicate in Czechoslovakia. Once the spectator is aware of the problem, vankmajer doesnt provide a concrete answer as to how it can be solved. Rather, each segment leaves the spectator with an open ended question of what will happen next: will there be a remedy for the failures of communication? In the instance of Dimensions of Dialogue I consider the focus of the question to be of greater si gnificance than its possible an swers. vankmajers bodies emphasize the control placed on the many asp ects of communication in Czechoslovakia under the period of normalization. With the hard penalties associated with displeasing the censors in any given area of media, the need for censorship all but disappeared. The ability to argue an issue became obsolete and so too the ability to openly express oneself. Dimensions of Dialogue breaks the silence brought on by normalization and forces the viewer to contemplate the disappearance of the right to openly and effectively communicate.


33 Chapter Two Consuming Bodies Food is a film based on human acts of consumption, specific ally the act of cannibalism. vankmajers grotesque represen tation of the body and its interactions with food create a metaphorical language that draws attention to and emphasizes the differences in how people consume. With Breakfast Lunch and Dinner taking place in dining establishments that ra nge from working to upper clas s atmospheres, each act of consumption creates a commentary on the natu re of class structure and power in both socialist and capitalist societ ies. In addition to the abil ity of the body to emphasize the disparity between class structures, there exists a unique relationship between this commentary and the complex sentiment of the citizens of Czechoslovakia from the time of the Prague Spring through the Velvet Revolution. vankmajer builds upon this sentiment and offers a criticism with the commentary of his bodies. The grotesque representation of the body in Food is significant in two ways. First, grotesque imagery is only apparent in the prep aration of and consumption of the meal; all other elements of each scene are represented in a formal or orderly fashion, thus giving emphasis to the grotesque nature of the act. For example, vankmajer uses live actors in plain dress, with little make-up and with all of their features intact. The sets are made of practical materials; it is onl y when in the act of preparation or consumption that an


34 actors face becomes misshapen clay or cutl ery appears from their ears. Secondly, the focus of all three segments is on the in teraction between the body and food. Bakhtin states that the interaction of the body and food is directly lin ked to the grotesque image, such as when the body eats, regurgitates and defecates (Bakhtin 303). Bakhtin adds that the interaction of the grotesque body and food is usually excessive and filled with exaggeration. In this film, the focus is pla ced on the interactions of the body, the most notable of which is the body of one man gi ving nourishment to another. According to Bakhtin, the cycle of life is directly li nked with the image of the grotesque: Actually, if we consider the grotesque imag e in its extreme aspect, it never presents an individual body; the image consists of orifices and convexities that present another, newly conceived body. It is a point of transition in a life eternally renewed, the inexhaustible vessel of death and conception. (318) Here, Bakhtin stresses how the grotesque im age of the body is in a constant state of rebirth. In the case of Food, the grotesque imagery of the renewal of life is apparent in the films three acts of consumption. Each se gment offers a different representation of the act of consumption, but the common thr ead amongst all thre e is the theme of cannibalism. In each act of cannibalism th e body consumed provides sustenance to the body consuming, thus giving life through its death. Table Etiquette The film begins with a rapid succession of shots depicting a variety of cooked meals, including poultry dishes, desserts, and casseroles. Despite the rapid pace of the shots, the food is recognizably lavish and appetizing; this is followed with the title of the


first segment, Breakfast Next, a medium establishing shot of a man sitting in a sparsely furnished room sets the stage for the following interactions. A man enters the room and shuts the door behind him; both men are elde rly and dressed alike in clothing that is sensible and unadorned. For the sake of clarity, the man who first appears in the shot will be referred to as sitting man and the ma n entering the room as the active man (see Figure 6). Figure 6: Jan vankmajer, Breakfast (active and sitting man) The active man enters the room and has a se at at the table across from the sitting man. The active man takes a look at the table a nd swipes a paper tray with left over bread and mustard onto the floor, he then looks ar ound the room and notices that many of these trays are scattered across the floor. A quick series of close-ups depicting trash items within the room and tally marks on the wall foreshadow the following acts of repetition. Upon his inspection he notices a set of instru ctions placed around the sitting mans neck; he takes a handful of change from his pocket and counts out three coins, he then looks for a place to insert the coins on top of sitting mans head. He takes another look at the instructions and proceeds to squeeze the sitti ng mans nose until he is forced to open his mouth for a breath. This act is depicted in a quick series of shots that create an image of convulsion; this image is accompanied by the sound of rattling change. 35


Once the sitting mans mouth is open, the active man pulls up his sleeve and sticks his hand into the sitting mans mout h and pulls out his tongue. This act is a particularly grotesque representation of th e mouth and head, because as the active man places his hand in the sitting mans head it deforms by getting larger and misshapen; in addition, the tongue is pulled very far from th e mouth almost to the point of detachment (see Figure 7). Figure 7: Jan vankmajer, Breakfast (cow tongue) For these shots, vankmajer depicts the head of the sitting man with an exact clay replica that he is able to grossly shape and manipulat e with stop motion animation. According to Bakhtin, In the example of grotesque, displeasure is caused by the impossible and improbable nature of the image (305). Its unimaginable that a mans tongue can be pulled this far from his mout h without being detached. This type of imagery certainly presents the spectator with something that causes displeasure, thus vankmajer depicts and emphasizes the act of consumption with grotesque imagery. This type of grotesque imagery continues in the following shots. 36


Change is placed on the sitting mans tongue and it slides back into the sitting mans head. The active man then hits the sitti ng man on the head in an effort to push the change into the sitting man, as though he were a vending machine. The active man reads the instructions again and proceeds to lift th e sitting mans glasses from his eyes, opening one of his eyes, and pushing his finger into it. At this point the sitting man begins to shake, the sound of rattling change is heard. The clothes on his chest begin to open; this reveals a cavity that resembles a dumb waite r. The pulley slowly pulls up a metal bin with a paper tray on it. The tray has one cooked sausage, some mustard and a small piece of bread on it; next to the tray there is a paper cup filled with beer. The active man proceeds to read the instructions again a nd punches the sitting man in the jaw, thus facilitating the projection of plastic ware fr om the sitting mans ears (see Figure 8). Figure 8: Jan vankmajer, Breakfast (utensil dispenser) The active mans consumption is portra yed in a rapid succession of close-ups. Again, he reads the instructions and proceeds to kick the sitting man in the shin, which in turn produces a napkin from his coat pocke t. After wiping his mouth, the active man 37


38 takes a seat and begins to move in a robotic manner; this movement is accompanied with the sound of metal squeaking and change rattling. The active man becomes still and the sitti ng man becomes active as he begins to get up from the table. He gathers his belongi ngs, takes a crayon and ta llies one line on the wall before exiting the room. Just before the door has time to shut, another man enters the room and the same process begins again. This man, just like the last, has the laborious job of reading the fine print instructions placed around the sitting mans neck in order to obtain a meal. When this process comes to an end, he becomes still and the sitting man gets up to leave, makes a tally on the wall and exits the room; only this time, the door stays open for the spectator to see that outside of the room there is a long hallway filled with men waiting in an equally long line. When considering the sequence of events described above, its evident that the grotesque is most noticeable in the implausible interaction between the two men. Take for example the sitting mans stomach turning into a dumb waiter; while all of the items in the shot are formally represented, the image of a dumb waiter within the mans torso is impossible, and therefore creates a sense of une asiness in the spectator. The source of this uneasiness can be found in the way in whic h the body is typically portrayed as being closed off and separate from the outside wo rld. The implausible grotesque imagery used in this segment calls attention to the act of consumption and lays emphasis on the laborious nature of the act. The active man is forced to us e the body of the sitting man in a series of unimaginable ways, but this doe snt happen all at on ce, it is a long and arduous process of physical force, that results in minimal compensation. The impossibility of the image can be found in th e following segment as well. In addition to


39 the elements of the grotesque listed above, the image of the grotesque body is found in the cannibalistic nature of this act of consumption. By literally eating food that has come from within his fellow man, the active man is provided with nourishment; he then takes his turn as the provider, thus continuing the renewal of life.7 In the segment titled Breakfast the spectator is presented with an act that emphasizes the laborious nature of consumption, but it is important to remember that this act isnt taking place between a man and machin e; rather it takes pl ace between two men. These men have to wait in line for a very long time before they have to go through the arduous process of receiving their meal from their fellow man. Once they receive their meal it is minimal at best. This scenario would be quite familiar with a Czechoslovak audience due to the conditions set in place by their socialist government. Socialism supports the ideology that every citizen should have access to resources provided by their government, and that each should be compensa ted according to their contribution (Kenez 96). In both the Soviet Union and Soviet Bloc, this ideology unfortunate ly led to a lack of resources such as adequate housing and c onsumer goods (Kenez 105). In addition to a lack of resources, the resour ces that existed were availa ble through what was perceived by many as an unnecessarily bureaucratic process. The arduous act of cannibalism between the two men serves as a metaphoric al language that speaks volumes to the unfortunate nature of the socialist ideology from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs (Kenez 14). vankmajer is drawing attention to and criticizing how ideological beliefs, regardless of thei r good intentions, can produce a negative effect on citizens. 7 See Ferrys Food in Film A Culinary Performance of Communication for more information regarding the relationship between food, society and communication.


40 The second segment, Lunch begins with another rapi d succession of shots that depict a variety of cooked meal s; these appear just as appe tizing as the previous meals. This is followed by a medium shot of two men sitting at a table in what appears to be a casual dining restaurant. One ma n, who appears to be slightly older than the other, is wearing a professional suit with a tie and a handk erchief; his hair is cut short and neatly combed. The younger man is wearin g a suit jacket with a plain t-shirt undernea th; his hair is long and unkempt. The two men try to get th e attention of the waiter to no avail. The older man begins cleaning his cutlery with his handkerchief in an effort to pass time; the younger man imitates, but does so in an unseemly way when he spits on his cutlery (inadvertently spitting in the eye of the older man) and be gins to wipe the cutlery on his sleeve. A waiter quickly walks past the two men and again they try, but fail to get his attention. The younger man looks down in disapp ointment as he grabs his stomach, thus signaling his hunger. Again the waiter walks by and they try to get his attention to no avail; in his effort to get the attention of the waiter, the younger man disrupts a small vase of flowers placed on the table. He proceeds to put one of the flower s in his mouth after attempting to straighten out the bouquet; he takes a second thought and pulls the flower out of his mouth and places it on the lapel of his jacket. This act gives the older man an idea; he proceeds to take out his handkerc hief and place the flow ers on his plate, and begins to eat them. This leads to an interac tion between the men that resembles a game of follow the leader. After consuming the flowers, the older man drinks the dirty vase water. The young man proceeds to eat the vase in one swallow; this is followed by the older man eating his handkerchief. The young man fo llows suit and pulls out an old dirty handkerchief and tries to eat it as well, but unlike the older man who uses his cutlery in a


41 proper manner, the younger man cannot get his cu tlery to do an adequate job; this leads the young man to eat his handkerchief in a crude way. The inability of the younger, unrefined man to eat with proper table etique tte is a constant theme throughout the meal, yet the older man doesnt make a fuss or try to correct the young man. Again, the waiter walks by and the two men try to signal him to their table only to fail. At this point the older man takes off hi s socks and shoes and places them on his plate and begins to eat them. The young man looks in disbelief at the older man, but decides to follow suit and begins to eat his shoes as we ll. Each act of consumption depicts a more deformed image of the young mans mouth and head. The mouth gets bigger, the head becomes misshapen, the skin cracks and the eyes bulge. The older ma n begins to eat his clothing and the younger man again imitates his actions. Though his bites do become larger, the older man is still using his cutlery to consume his food. In contrast, with each act of swallowing, the younger mans consump tion becomes more and more exaggerated; he neglects to even pick up his cutlery and simply stuffs his mouth with each item of clothing. Both men are sitting naked at th e table and the server walks by yet again without notice of his patrons. This leads the older man to begin consuming the tablecloth and the table; again the younger man imita tes the act consumption. Each act of consumption grows in exaggeration; both men ta ke bigger bites, use less table etiquette, and become more misshapen in the act of swallowing (see Figure 9).


Figure 9: Jan vankmajer, Lunch Finally, the two men have devoured the ta ble and chairs. They sit naked on the floor as the server walks past them and they fail in their final attempt to get his attention. At this point the older man takes a look at hi s cutlery and places it in his mouth as though he were consuming it. Just as before, the younger man does the same, only this time the older man has tricked the young man. The young ma n learns that the older man has not swallowed his cutlery when he proceeds to regurgitate it. The older man gives the younger man a look that implies a devious sens e of victory and proceeds to back the young man against the wall in an effort to consume him. The young man has a look of terror on his face as he raises his hands in an effort to defend himself. In the last shot, the spectator sees is the older man coming closer with his cutlery until it fades to black. This segment offers images of consumpti on that are slightly more grotesque than Breakfast mainly in the fact that the faces of the two men become more misshapen, such as the mouths widening and the eyes bulging fu rther from the face with each bite, leading to the ultimate act of consumption, cannibalism. Remembering that the most important of all human features of the grotesque is the mouth and that the grotesque is interested only in protruding eyes (Bakhtin 317), as we ll as the endless destruction and renewal of 42


43 life found in the grotesque, it is clear that vankmajers imagery in this segment also brings attention to, by way of the grotes que, the act of consumption. The grotesque imagery in this act of consumption emphasizes the fact that everything is consumable, from the clothing to the table, and finally to man himself. In this segment the spectator witnesse s a slightly different commentary on the relationship between class and consumption. This scenario depicts a well-to-do man of the middle class seated with a younger lowerclass working man. The distinction between their positions can be drawn from the attire they wear, their personal grooming and table etiquette. These men try and try to gain th e attention of their waiter to no avail; subsequently they begin to devour all that surrounds them. As previously described, for the middle class man, there is not a single item that is beyond consumption. The working class man follows his lead and consumes w ith him, albeit in a less mannerly way. They consume and consume until theyre left with themselves, and at this point the middle class man consumes his working-class companion. This is a familiar scenario in two distin ctive ways. First, the inattentive waiter would most certainly be recognized by the audience as a criticism of the state of Czechoslovakia during its time as a socialist society. This is due to the fact that during this time waiters were paid the same wage re gardless of the service that they gave, thus leading to their inattentiveness; this problem was notorious not only in the Soviet Union, but to countries within the Soviet Bloc. Secondly, at the time of the films production, 1992, the citizens of Czechoslovakia had only expe rienced life in a free market society for a little over two years, but they would have been familiar with the idea of the well-off exploiting the lower class, mainly because during the early years of democracy for


Czechoslovakia, it became apparent that on ly the wealthy could afford all that was available, and in order to con tinue to thrive, exploitation of the lower classes was indeed necessary (Vogt 112). Therefore, this segment can be taken as a dual criticism of the unfortunate nature of both soci alist and capital ist ideology. The final segment, Dinner begins with the same rapid succession of shots depicting cooked meals; this is followed by a medium establishing shot of an elderly gentleman sitting at a dining table. He is dr essed in a tuxedo and th e dcor of the dining room is of fine quality as we ll. The table is crowded with various assortments of sauces and relishes (see Figure 10). Figure 10: Jan vankmajer, Dinner The man prepares to eat his meal by placi ng a napkin in his lap; this is followed with a series of shots in which the man appl ies a sauce or relish to his dish. During these shots the spectator is unable to see what food item is on the plate and the focus is primarily on the detail of each sauce and reli sh being applied. Each item is applied again and again to the point of excess. The indi vidual shots are close-ups and focus on the transfer of liquids or relish from the origin al container to the plate; the closeness and repetitious nature of the dressing of the plat e produces a grotesque depiction food. 44


The overindulgence of the dressing comes to an end when the man begins to eat the meal. He does this in a very unusual way by placing a fork in his hand, which is wooden; he then proceeds to hammer the fork into place with two nails and checks to see if the fork is sturdy. He picks up his knife a nd moves both of his hands over the plate in order to cut the food item on his plate; it is at this point th at the food item, the mans hand and part of his arm, is finally reve aled to the spectator (see Figure 11). Figure 11: Jan vankmajer, Dinner (severed hand) It appears to be amputated and neatly placed upon the plate but covered with the assortment of sauces and relishes. The man carefully removes a ring from the ring finger of the hand on the plate and begins to cut in to the hand. At this point the camera pans over to a medium-close shot of a mans torso. The torso of the man is covered by an athletic tank top with a number pinned to the front. The spectator doesnt see his face as he opens a silver platter that is placed before him on the table. When he lifts the top off the platter he reveals a foot and part of a leg on the plate; it is lying on a bed of greens with onions scattered on top and the foot has a runners shoe on it (see Figure 12). 45


Figure 12: Jan vankmajer, Dinner (severed leg and foot) The man takes off the shoe with his fork a nd knife and proceeds to cut into the foot, but at this exact moment the camera quickly pans to another table in to a close-up of two halves of a lemon. This is followed by a female picking up the lemons and squeezing their juice onto a pair of breasts that lay on a plate with garnish (see Figure 13). As she picks up her spoon and begins to eat, the camera pans to yet another table. Figure 13: Jan vankmajer, Dinner (severed breasts) This shot depicts the hairy torso of an overweight male; a large glass of beer blocks a complete view of his chest as he scratches it. He proceeds to pick up his fork and 46


spoon, both of which are made of flimsy metal; in this shot the spectator can see that the table is no longer covered with fine linen, but a dirty red chec ker table cloth covered with ashtrays and ashes. The following shot shows his fork and spoon cutting into a penis that lies on a white plate (see Figure 14); it is surrounded by a red sauce and onions with a side of bread. The man quickly places his ha nds atop the penis to hide them from the spectator, he then shoos the spectator away with one hand as the shot fades to black. Figure 14: Jan vankmajer, Dinner (severed penis) The depiction of the grotesque in th is segment relies on the dressing and consumption of unimaginable food items. Ag ain, the actors and th e set are formally represented, and all attention is drawn to the act of consumption itsel f. In this act of consumption the emphasis is on excess. The reli shes and sauces applied to the food are in their own right grossly represented and it is implausible that a nyone would apply this amount of relish to any one dish. The consumption becomes even more unimaginable when the food item is revealed to be the diners own body part. In the case of Dinner the renewal of life found in the grotesqu e occurs when man devours himself. 47


48 Dinner places the spectator in the bour geois fine dining restaurant that exemplifies the ultimate criticis m of the upper-class. In this scenario the emphasis is on the grossly excessive nature of upper cla ss consumption. The body parts depicted as dinner can be seen as a metaphor for how the diners in this establishment are so accustomed to thriving off of the lower cla sses that they can consume in such excess without a second thought. Their pl ates are lavishly garnished a nd they appear oblivious to who may be watching them; this clearly serves as a criticis m of the lavish and blatant lifestyle of the capitalist bourge oisie. This continues until th e spectator reaches the table of a man who is clearly out of place; yet he too is about to indulge in himself. This appears to be a direct commentary on the capita list ideology that even the lower class can achieve wealth and propriety as long as they work hard and imitate the upper class. It is evident with the previous analysis that each segment of Food emphasizes various attributes of the act of consumpti on through grotesque imagery, thus pointing out the differences in how people consume. Each segment offers a different commentary to the spectator regarding how one consumes and in each segment the type of consumption and the emphasis of that consumption cha nge according to the class level of the individuals and their environment. The commentary of the bodies in Food criticizes the ills of both socialist and capitalist societies. Primar ily by pointing out that rega rdless of their optimistic ideologies, both demonstrate though quite di fferently, the unfortunate nature of man having to exploit his fellow man in order to th rive. The poignancy of this criticism lies in the fact that from the period of the Prague Spring thr ough the Velvet Revolution, the people of Czechoslovakia yearned for a more democratic form of government and a free


49 market society. When the events of the Pr ague Spring took place, the people and their leaders agreed that the current form of soci alism needed reform, but many were unsure of which direction and how far this should go. Some wanted a complete departure from socialism altogether, but this seemed unlikely at the time. Regardless of what the citizens wanted, they unfortunately were unable to see any reform to the end with the intervention of the Soviets. But the people were once agai n faced with this very complex issue after the Velvet Revolution. The Velvet Revolution marked the end of a socialist government, but brought on the beginning of a time in whic h the people experienced a great amount of economic instability. There were more goods to buy and more options at hand, but inflation made it impossible for all but the wealth iest to afford purchasing them. This left most of the citizens feeling ambivalent about the nature of their present free market society. They often thought that things were better, more stable, under socialism (Vogt 141). Though he produced Food twenty years after writing it, it is striking that the complex issues that vankmajer wanted to ad dress were still absolutely relevant in the time of its production. This is possible not only because of the socio-political situation that plagued the Czech lands for so long, but al so of the fact that vankmajer focuses on issues that plague many societies. vankmajer addresses how he feels about the nature of his work: The subversiveness of my films was always ai med at a point beneath the surface of phenomena such as Stalinism. That is why I have no need to change the direction of my themes (Hames, Dark Alchemy 118). vankmajers distaste for both socialist and capitalist id eology was common among Czech citizens considering the unstable condition of Czechoslovakia during tr ansition, but for vankmajer, there are no


50 easy answers to the questions surrounding the direction Czechos lovakia would take in the years after socialism, though it can certainly be said that his position appears pessimistic (Vogt 105).


51 Chapter Three Manipulating Bodies vankmajers Faust is presented to the spectator in a myriad of settings, some realistic, some fantastic, yet there is a cons tant theme within all of these settings: the manipulation of characters, especially that of Faust Characters are often being manipulated by an unknown source that appears as a hand; the hand controls the characters through the use of puppet string s and marionette sticks. In many scenes various props are put in place to create a theater setting in which the puppets and marionettes interact, often unde r the control of the hand. Wh ile in some scenes the characters are free of the hands manipulation, there are other factors of manipulation at play. vankmajer often depicts these acts of manipulation with grotesque imagery of the body, thus emphasizing the act of manipulation within the contex t of the film. Again, it is evident that the representation of the grot esque body and its interactions serve as a metaphorical language that creates a commentary on socio-political issues. In the case of Faust the bodies create a commentary on the nature of control and agency in postcommunist Czech Republic. When considering the commentary of the bodies, it is important to specifically address the relationship between what is said by the bodies and the complex socio-political time in which the film was produced. The Faust story has been adapted in literature, music and more recently film. Though each adaptation is different, there are common themes found in the way in which


52 the story is told; often times in Eastern Eur ope, the story concerns itself with specific political problems that face society (Hedge s 6). Take for example Mikhail Bulgakovs Master and Margarita Bulgakov satirizes the absurd and terrifying conditions under Stalinism. Similarly, Thomas Ma nns adaptation of the legend Doctor Faustus deals with the complex issues surrounding German cultural identity and its significant relationship to Nazism (Hedges 44). Though vankmajer is not the first to engage political implications in the storys rete lling, his adaptation is unique in the fact that while one can draw political implications from the film, vankmajers storyline and dialogue do not deviate from Christopher Ma rlowes original text The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (1594). vankmajers political implications are subtle but effective. Take, for instance, his use of an unknown hand that manipulates ch aracters and sets in both theatrical and open space settings, as well as the characters morphing from live actors to molded clay figures, controlled puppets, and life-sized mari onettes: all of these se parate parts combine to present the spectator with the fact that all elemen ts can come under manipulation. The more obvious political implication of vankmaj ers adaptation is th e way in which he forces his Faust to choose betw een the old and the new Prague. Lecke Faust ( The Lesson of Faust ): Synopsis The film opens with a live action scene that depicts the crowded streets of contemporary Prague, people and cars presum ably on their way to and from work. All seems ordinary within the first few scenes; however, the spectator is slowly subjected to an environment that becomes incr easingly strange. The protagonist of the film, a middleaged working-class man, encounters two men on the street who are passing out maps; he takes one, only to discard it in to the nearest trashcan. The protagonist encounters the map


53 in his mailbox, finds an egg within his loaf of bread, and subsequently cracks the egg only to find nothing inside. The cracking of the egg leads to a sudden storm within the mans apartment and it appears to represent th e opening of an alternative dimension of reality. He looks out of his window to see th e two men who were handing out the flyers on the street. They stare back at him with wh ite eyes; one man is holding the chicken that left the apartment in the earlier shot. When the protagonist turns away from the window, the two men proceed to take out white co lored contacts from their eyes; only the spectator is able to see the two men doing this. This shot is especially important, because it establishes from the beginni ng that the two men are mani pulating the actions of the protagonist. It is apparent th at they have placed the additional map in his mailbox, as well as the chicken in the apartment and are now en ticing the interest of the protagonist with the mysterious storm and eerie white eyes. Their manipulative efforts pay off, and the next day the protagonist follows the map into a dark and decrepit part of the c ity. He enters what appears to be a rundown building. From this point forward, he and the other characters address him as Faust. As Faust begins his journey through the multi-dime nsional theater, he encounters additional characters, such as Mephistopheles, a jester and the devil himself. These characters are played by life-sized marionettes, small puppets and clay figures. At no point within the film does the protagonist address the fact that he is interacting with in animate objects that have taken a life of their ow n, and at times the protagonist himself is turned into a marionette. Fausts journey continues both in and outsi de of the theater that he originally enters, but in a very distinctive way. He c onjures the demon Mephist opheles while in the


54 theater and signs his pact with the dev il upon the theater s stage, but once he has signed this pact his interactions are strictly within the controlled environment of the theater and alternating open air settings. Faust travel s through strange alternate dimensions and encounters a myriad of characters that engage his attention until he becomes frustrated with the lack of knowledge provi ded in all of these situations Faust is once again in the theater when he begins to contemplate his pact with the devil and deci des to flee. At this point the devil enters the room only to find that Faus t has escaped; the following shots show Faust as a live actor running through th e building. Just as he makes his way through the door and runs into the streets of Pra gue he is hit by a re d car and killed. As a result of its appearance in an earlie r scene, the spectator will most certainly recognize the red car that hits Faust. In the earlier scene, after being exhaustively manipulated by the jester, one of the demons is seen getting into th e red car and speeding away. The scene in which Faust is hit by the red car is one example of the many scenes within the film in which the spectator become s aware of the fact th at in every situation there is a source of control over Faust and hi s environment. In the case of this scene, Faust is being prohibited from doing some thing, which is running away from the commitment he has made to the devil; in most scenes, however, the source of control is manipulating Faust into action. In either circumstan ce Faust is being manipulated and loses a great deal of agency throughout his journey. Interestingly, most of the acts of manipulation are depicted with grotesque im agery. By depicting the act of manipulation with grotesque imagery, vankmajer is drawi ng attention to and em phasizing the lack of control and agency over ones body and its subsequent actions.


The Grotesque Body and Manipulation To illustrate exactly how the image of the grotesque body emphasizes the act of manipulation, it is necessary to closely analyz e a scene in which this takes place, first focusing on the depiction of grotesque images of the body, then on the way in which it emphasizes acts of manipulation. The scene to be analyzed ta kes place late in the film and depicts Faust being manipul ated away from contemplati on and into physical pleasure by a demon. The scene begins with Faust insi de of the theater in a backstage room; he encounters Mephistopheles in the form of a clay head. The head rolls in the direction of Faust in the form of a solid ball of clay, and as it slows to a stop it forms into a misshapen head with bulging eyes, oversized nose, large dirty teeth and horns. He re we can see that Bakhtins description of the grotesque eyes nose and mouth most certainly apply to vankmajers depiction of Mephistophele s (see Figure 15). The eyes are bulging, the nose protrudes from the face and the mouth is oversized and misshapen (Bakhtin 317). Figure 15: Jan vankmajer, Faust Clay Head of Mephistopheles, Krtk Film, 1994 55


56 Faust curses Mephistopheles and grabs hi s head and smashes it, but the head reforms. Again, Faust curses Mephistophe les and vows to renounce the magic and repent; as he yells these verses, he grabs the head and smashes it, picks it up and throws it out the room, shutting the door behind him. The backstage room is turned into a set stage and an oversized woode n marionette head is lowe red onto Fausts shoulders. According to Bakhtin, the image of the grotesque body can take on the form of a human with animal traits or a human form represen ted as an inanimate obj ect (Bakhtin 303). The latter of the two is directly related to the re presentation of Faust as a life-sized marionette. As Faust kneels to the picture of Christ, the life-sized marion ette-devil-head appears from the side of the stage; after seeing that Faust is in the act of contemplation, the devil turns and calls one of his demons to come and t ake on the guise of lovely Helen, we shall deceive him one more time. As the devil cal ls out this command, th ere is a series of shots of a demon head rolling through a dark forest, it attaches to a marionette body in the theater and the unknown hands dress it in a fema le disguise. This is followed by a closeup shot of the hands taking a screwdriver and screwing a hole into the pelvic area of the wooden marionette; then the hands place a fa ke patch of pubic hair above the hole. This image correlates to what Bakhtin de scribes as the lower stratum of the grotesque body (311). The lower stratum is connected to the abil ity of the grotesque body to outgrow or transgress itself through its reproductive organs (Bakhtin 317). According to Bakhtin, this part of the body ha s lost its representati on in the new bodily canon unless its referred to in the manner of a joke or sl ur, but in terms of the old bodily canon it is simply a symbol of the bodys ability to produce a second body


57 (Bakhtin 319). By depicting the vagina on an inanimate object by means of a screwdriver, vankmajer is instantly causing the spectator uneasiness that draws attention to the act at hand. Helen enters the stage and begins to entice Faust; he is quick to react to her beauty and declares she deserves the ecstasy of love. The scene continues with Faust chasing Helen through an old crumbling cas tle; he proceeds to follow her through darkened rooms until they come to a room that is filled with caskets. Helen crouches down in a corner with her back turned to Faus t; he approaches her, lifts her to her feet and begins kissing her wooden face. Faust proceeds to lay the marionette body on the ground and begins sexual interc ourse. Throughout the shots th at follow the spectator can see the demons arms and legs as they are reve aled; they are red with deep black lines, and black claws. It is only when the sexual act is complete that Faust lifts the dress of Helen and reveals the demons wooden body with a gaping hole in the pelvic area; he then realizes that he has been deceived by the demon. Again, this gaping hole that represents the vagina is depicted in a grotesque wa y, both by appearing on an inanimate object and being shown in general, for that which belong s to the lower stratum is hidden away from and separated from the rest of society (Bakhtin 320). This is the point at which Faust goes back into the theater and begins contemplating his choice to sign a pact with the devil, and ultimately decides to abandon his commitment, only to be killed while trying to escape. vankmajers use of the image of th e grotesque body during this scene draws attention to and emphasizes the act of manipulation. Rather than using live actors or two marionettes, he chose to portray the act in a way that would distur b the spectator, thus


58 getting them to pay special attention to the way in which Faust is being manipulated. The first example of this can be found in the be ginning of the scene when Fausts body is turned into an inanimate object, with this grotesque imagery the spectator pays close attention to the actions of Faust, actions that are manipulated by an unknown hand. The second example of the grotes que body emphasizing the act of manipulation can be found in the depiction of Helen as a demon marionette in disguise. Here the spectator is presented with imagery that is unsettling in a number of ways. For example, the depiction of the low er stratum of Hele ns body and the sexual interaction between live actor and marionette. This imagery emphasizes the way in which Faust is being manipulated into action; there are no strings attached to either Faust or Helen, and still Faust is under the manipulation of the devil. While this scene is only one example of the image of the grotesque body being employed during the act of manipulation, grotesque imagery is seen many times throughout the film, certainly during each act of manipulation. From the onset of the film it becomes a pparent to the spectator that Faust is either directly or indirectly manipulated into action. The direct manipulation occurs mainly when the unknown hands control both Faust and his environment through the use of stage props and puppet strings; the indire ct manipulation often occurs when Faust encounters the two nameless men. They lead him into action by giving him clues to unlocking the alternate dimension. In both cases vankmajer uses grotesque imagery in order to emphasize the act of manipulation, thus drawing atten tion to and making a commentary on the nature of contro l and agency of ones own body.


59 The Message of Faust vankmajers choice to adapt the story of Faust is in itself a form of manipulation. By applying ones interpretati on to a previous text, one adapts and manipulates that material in the process. In vankmajers Faust the adaptation takes on one explicit theme, manipulation. vankmaj er explains his reasoning for such an adaptation: During the filming I felt a great urge to bri ng my own obsessive theme into the work: the theme of manipulation. Manipulation is not just a principle of totalitarian regimes. Of this I am becoming more and more convinced. (Hames, Dark Alchemy 114) vankmajers words are significant in a very distinctive way. It is clear that the director himself has an obsession with the act of manipulation. There is evidence of this not only in his statement, but also in his choice of medi um when working in film; claymation and stop motion animation are among the most tedious forms of filmmaking, but with these two mediums the artist can mani pulate the subject to his or her exact taste. vankmajers statement about manipulation a nd choice of medium brings to light the theories of Patrick Fuery concerning the cinematized body. According to Fuery, the cinematized body comes under different forms of control when its being filmed (84). In the case of Faust it is clear that vankmajer has comp lete control over the depiction of the bodies and it appears as though vankmajer is playing with this idea when he shows the unknown hand. Instead of asking the audience to believe that this is the unknown hand of a universal puppet master, I would argue that he is cleverly alluding to the fact that he is in control. van kmajers commentary in the st atement above and his choice of


60 medium, share a unique relationship with th e socio-political situation in the Czech Republic prior to the films production. vankmajers obsession with manipulation and the lack of control and agency over ones body can be directly linked with the sociopolitical turbulence many Czech citizens experi enced leading up to and after the Velvet Divorce. Prior to the Velvet Revolution, the citizens of present day Czech Republic experienced a life that lacked any real sens e of agency. Along with the rules that were explicitly in place according to law, there were implied conducts of order facilitated through all forms of media (ime ka 51). The second matter of significance in vankm ajers statement is the way in which he hints at the idea that manipulation is occu rring even after the fall of the totalitarian governments across the Soviet Bloc. Here it se ems as though he is once again alluding to the ills of capitalist and socialist societies. vankmajers Faust exists and interacts in both a modern and antiquated Prague. While in the modern streets of Prague, Faust has a reasonable amount of agency; upon entering th e old city which appears as the rundown theater, Faust immediately comes under the control of another unknown source. The new and modern streets of Prague in the film appear to repres ent the newly democratic Czech Republic, a place in which citizens have ag ency. The old abandoned, crumbling Prague filled with dilapidated buildings and castles appears to represent the nation under harsh communist rule, a place in which citizens have no control and are at the mercy of the puppet master. It is in this place that Faust encounters the most devious forms of manipulation, but that is not to say he doesnt encounter manipulation in the modern city as well. There is always someone or somethi ng guiding Faust before he enters the old city and its in the modern streets that Faust meets his end. While the especially grotesque


61 acts of manipulation allude to the repression and control of pa st totalitarian states, the subtlety of what occurs in the modern Prague clearly presents the spectator with a caution to be careful of putting complete faith in th e status quo. This cautionary tale would have certainly reached Czech audiences, due in part to the fact that af ter the Velvet Divorce there were many financial scandals in the Czech government. This corruption led citizens to truly understand that money equaled power of choice, thus forcing many to come to grips with the inevitable shortcomings of capitalism (Dryzek and Holmes 250). vankmajers Faust appears to embody the collective anxiety of a nation struggling with the transition fr om a state of complete contro l into a state of agency, but what can be said of the way in which van kmajer ends the film? Here the spectator encounters the Lecke Faust or The Lesson of Faust. Faus t chooses agency, but in doing so, he flees the old building for the streets of Prague only to be hit by a car and killed. This scene appears to represent vankmaje rs position towards the status quo; its obvious that Faust is damned in either situat ion. vankmajer explains his distaste for both socialist and capitalist forms of government, as well as his bleak outlook for the future of not only the Czech Republic, but for all of civilization: Half the world played the social justice game while happily murdering people in its name and the other half played on the freedom of the individual while, using advertising tricks, creating unified cons umers who did not have their own will and happily licked up any old scum. These two worlds created each other as irreconcilable enemies so that they could gladly arm themselves and thus ensure enough work for the people and enough gain for the military indus trial complexes on both sides. The collapse of socialism was the last nail in the coffin of this civilization. (Hames, Dark Alchemy 118)


62 vankmajer clearly states that regardless of where one may exist, the powers that be will implement control over the individual an d that power will be used in one way or another. This statement appears to personify many aspects of Foucaults theory of the body politic. First, Foucault st ates: [t]he body becomes a usef ul force only if it is both a productive body and a subjected body, (26) this theory shares a di rect relationship to vankmajers statements regarding the gain of the military industrial complexes on both sides. In this case the body is invested with power in order to produce and sustain economy, both in socialist and capitalist so cieties. The manipulation of the body is essential in its ability to receive and transm it the knowledge of social order and control, thus serving an economic purpose. However, it is imperative to acknowledge that the body can receive and transmit knowledge that re sists social order and control, thus creating an altogether different purpose. This is the unique characteristic of bot h vankmajers bodies within his films and his films as a bodily discourse. According to Patrick Fuery, the cinematized body has a unique relationship with the existing knowledge of power, conforming to, reinforcing or resisting it (84). As we have seen in Faust and the previous chapters as well, the body in vankmajers work actively resists the exis ting knowledge of power ; this resistance is evident through the grotesque depiction and interactions of the body. While many of the actions of the bodies in vankmajers work represent the destru ctive and unfortunate characteristics of human interaction in sociopolitical situations, v ankmajers films as a body within the discourse of film produces a unique knowle dge of resistance to this destruction. In this sense, it can be said th at within the filmic discourse, vankmajers


63 work is a beneficial criticism regarding the investment of power on the individual and its relationship to society.


64 Works Cited Arcimboldo, Giuseppe. Summer .Louvre, Paris France. Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World Bloomington, IN: Indian a University Press, 1984. Cravens, Craig. Culture and Customs of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Westport; London: Greenwood Press, 2006. Dimensions of Dialogue Dir. Jan vankmajer. Krtk film Prague, 1982. Dryzek, John S. and Holmes, Leslie Templeman. Post-Communist Democratization; Political Discourses Across Thirteen Countries. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Faraday, George. Revolt of the Filmmakers; The St ruggle for Artistic Autonomy and the Fall of the Soviet Film Industry. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000. Ferry, Jane F. Food in Film A Culinary Performance of Communication. New York, London: Routledge, 2003. Food. Dir. Jan vankmajer. Krtk film Prague, 1992. Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison New York: Random House, 1979. Fuery, Patrick. New Developments in Film Theory. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000. Grant, John. "Jan Svankmajer." Masters of Animation. New York: Watson-Guptill, 2001. 135-52. Hames, Peter. Dark Alchemy The Films of Jan Svankmajer. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1995. , The Czechoslovak New Wave. Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985.Kenez, Peter. A History of the Soviet Union Fr om the Beginning to the End New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.


65 Kusin, Vladimir V. From Dubcek to Charter 77; A Study of 'normalization' in Czechoslovakia 1968-1978. New York: St. Martins Press 1978. Lecke Faust. Dir. Jan vankmajer. Koninck Film UK, 1994. Newman, Kim. "Twilight Zone." Sight & Sound (2007): 84-85. O'Pray, Michael. "Between Slapstick and Horror." Sight & Sound (1994): 20-23. , Michael. "Surrealism, Fantasy an d the Grotesque." Donald, James. Fantasy and the Cinema. London: BFI Publishing, 1989. 252-267. Richardson, Michael. Surrealism and Cinema. Oxford-New York: Berg, n.d. ime ka, Milan. The Restoration of Order: The No rmalization of Czechoslovakia 19691976. Bratislava: Verso Editions, 1984. Shera, Allen Peta. "The Labyrin thine Madness of Svankmajer's Faust ." Gender Studies (2001): 127-44. Sommer, Mark. Living in Freedom; The Exhilaration and Anguish of Prague's Second Spring San Francisco: Mercury House, 1992. Strick, Philip. "Lesson of Faust." Sight & Sound (1994): 40-42. Travnickova, Marketa. "Czech Theater ." Prague, National Museum in. A Thousand Years of Czech Culture. Winston-Salem and Prague: Univer sity of Washington Press, 1996. 7884. Uhde, Jan. "Beyond the Genre Formula: Implicit Horror in the Films of Jan Svankmajer." Williams, Jay Schneider and Tony. Horror International. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2005. 259-272. , "Jan Svankmajer: Genius Loci as a Source of Surrealist Inspiration." Stone, Graeme Harper and Rob. The Unsilvered Screen; Surrealism on Film London and New York: Wallflower Press, 2007. 60-71. , Jan. "The Bare Bones of Horror." Kinoeye (2002): 16-25. Vogt, Henri. Between Utopia & Disillusionment; A Narrative of the Political Transformation in Eastern Europe. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2005 Wells, Paul. "Body consciousness in the film s of Jan Svankmajer." Pilling, Jayne. A Reader in Animation Studies. London: John Libbey, 1997. 177-194.


66 Williams, Kieran. The Prague Spring and its Aftermath: Czechoslovak Politic. 19681970. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.