Invention for Destruction (1958).

In addition to Jean Kerchbron’s Golem my weekend viewing involved a fresh immersion in the semi-animated fantasies of Karel Zeman, one of which, Invention for Destruction, I’d not seen for many years. It hadn’t occurred to me before how closely Zeman’s technique on these films matches some of my own recent illustration when it applies original drawn elements to settings constructed from old engravings. For Zeman, combining actors with animated models and pictorial backgrounds was an economical way of bringing to life the worlds of Jules Verne, Rudolf Erich Raspe and others while retaining the feel of the original book illustrations. These films are also closer to the Max Ernst school of engraved collage than they may at first seem. The mansion at the beginning of Invention for Destruction could easily have been an illustration of a single building but Zeman offers a hybrid construction with unrealistically conflicting perspectives; later on we see a desert cavalry of camels on roller skates. It’s no surprise that Jan Svankmajer admires Zeman’s films. And having recently watched all the Svankmajers it’s good to know there are several Zeman features still to see.







The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (1961).






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Karel Zeman

2 thoughts on “Zemania”

  1. So great to have you posting again regularly!

    Years ago I was able to nab Zeman’s Baron Munchausen from a fabulous grey market site when it was otherwise unavailable in the States. (Same place I got Funeral of Roses and Captain Freedom too.)

    It was so charming and distinctly other, and you feel like you’ve stumbled into an alternate timeline with an entirely different approach to fantastic effects.

  2. Thanks. :) I was fortunate to see both these films in the 1980s when the UK’s Channel 4 were supporting animated films as part of their brief to provide an alternative to the other TV channels. It still amazes me that they were made 60 years ago yet their effects have none of the bluescreen clunkiness of later productions with much bigger budgets. He really was a magician.

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