The Pendulum, the Pit and Hope


The Pendulum, the Pit and Hope (1983) is the third and best of three Gothic shorts made by Jan Svankmajer, the two earlier works being Castle of Otranto (1973–79) and The Fall of the House of Usher (1980). Svankmajer combines Poe’s famous tale of Inquistion torment with A Torture by Hope by Auguste Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, and  unlike Corman and co. reduces the story to a stark and wordless first-person ordeal in the face of clanking, fire-breathing engines of destruction. Poe’s story lets the narrator off the hook with a deus ex machina intervention, something Svankmajer evidently felt unable to swallow, hence the Villiers coda.

All the above works, and much more besides, can be found on the BFI’s collection of Svankmajer’s short films. Another short adaptation of the Poe story, The Pit (1962) by Edward Abraham, will appear next month as an extra on the eagerly-awaited DVD/BR debut of Schalcken the Painter.


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Two sides of Liska
The Torchbearer by Václav Svankmajer

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