One of the links at the weekend was to this post about the favourite Polish posters of the Brothers Quay, a piece which included an example by designer and illustrator Jan Lenica (1928–2001). Lenica, like the Quays, was also a filmmaker who started out by producing short animations, Labirynt (1963) being one of these works. I’d not come across this before but now that I’ve watched it I’d be very surprised if Terry Gilliam hadn’t seen it at some point in the 1960s, the animation of collaged illustrations and hand-tinted photographs from 19th-century sources is precisely the kind of thing that Gilliam was doing a few years later. So is the generally Surrealist atmosphere with a bowler-hatted protagonist being menaced in the street by a host of hybrid creatures, encountering the women one sees in old erotic postcards, being seized by a giant hand, and so on.
Many Eastern European animations from the Cold War period involve a degree of political allegory, and Labirynt is no exception. One of the menacing figures is a mechanical gentleman who captures Bowler Hat Man and subjects him to a series of forced operations, eventually building a cage inside the captive’s head. Given this, and some opening shots which show Bowler Hat flying over the city using self-powered wings, it’s not stretching a point to see this 13-minute film as Brazil in miniature. Watch it for yourself here.