The Torchbearer by Václav Svankmajer


Svankmajer? Yes, Václav is the son of Czech Surrealists Jan Svankmajer and Eva Svankmajerová, and The Torchbearer (2005) is the third of three short films he’s directed. Like the celebrated films of his father this is an animated piece in which a faceless warrior navigates a ruined labyrinth where lethal traps are prepared by a group of living female statues. The style reminded me more of some of the Brothers Quay shorts than the snapping, jerking works of Svankmajer Sr.: the gliding statues are reminiscent of the tailors’ dummies in Street of Crocodiles (1986) while the mechanical traps call to mind Gilgamesh’s murderous table in This Unnameable Little Broom (1985). (And, yes…also the death machine in The Pendulum, the Pit and Hope.)

Václav Svankmajer’s website has a page devoted to the production of the film. Also on his site are several galleries of the paintings and drawings that are the focus of his attention today. Via Form is Void.

The Torchbearer on YouTube: Part 1 | Part 2

Previously on { feuilleton }
Jan Svankmajer: The Complete Short Films

9 thoughts on “The Torchbearer by Václav Svankmajer”

  1. Wonderful stuff! I’ve been a stop-motion fan ever since I saw the Ray Harryhausen epic JASON & THE ARGONAUTS as a kid. The scene where Talos turns his head and bores in on Hercules after he steals the treasure is one of the great moments in fantasy film.

    This art has been marginalized in hollywood by the devotion to CGI but I hope it always has its practicioners.

  2. Oh yeah, I used to watch Jason… religiously when I was a boy. Always preferred that one to the first Sinbad film which is the one many Harryhausen-ites prefer. I think I liked the way the story elements were less familiar, Greek mythology not having been exploited so much in film fantasy. A great score by Bernard Herrmann as well.

    I had the good fortune to meet Ray Harryhausen at a small sf group evening some time in the mid-1990s after he’d very graciously agreed to turn up and talk about his films. By one of those ridiculous accidents of social events we got introduced for a moment (liked he’d ever know or care who I was) and shook hands. Afterwards I kept thinking how that was one of the hands that animated all those creatures…

  3. How do you rebel against a father like that? You’d think he’d be doing minimalist / realist films…

  4. Unfortunately, the you tube link is dead…it is a link no more…it has ceased to be…it is an ex link. Oh well, i’ll just have to buy the box set instead – woe.

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