Jan Švankmajer’s Faust

Faust (1994) is director Jan Švankmajer’s retelling of the tale of Doctor Faust, a man who makes a literal deal with the devil for knowledge.  The 16th century German story is brought into 20th century Prague, which apparently is full partially abandoned buildings and dank basements.  Through the first act, our Everyman wanders through these creepy locations with little dialogue, which adds to the haunting atmosphere (as my roommate put it, he’s like a creepy Mr. Bean – indeed, Everyman looks like Rowan Atkinson).  He eventually encounters an alchemy lab and manages to whip up some sort of golem terror-baby.


Do not mess with Terror-Baby.

After becoming Faust through a play, he encounters some moderately scary human-sized marionettes, including an angel, a demon, and a jester who sounds like Terrance and Phillip (in the English dub at least).  Additionally, the Devil’s intimidating intonations sound a lot like this.  The marionettes are involved in rhythmic scenes which possess a degree of repetition.  In the case of the jester, much of this is used to a humorous effect, such as when he goes in search of someone in Prague to protect Faust from the Devil.  This intentionally out-of-place scene works like a hidden camera TV show, as the people on the street don’t seem to be aware of a film being shot.

This is only my second Švankmajer film, but it seems that one of his habits is his use of grating sound effects.  In Alice (1988), he used all sorts of mechanical glitchy noises and the girl’s voice.  The chatter of the marionette’s teeth and an assortment of other bizarre effects is a bit unnerving, but not quite to the extent of Alice.  While not as visually stimulating as Alice, partly due to most of Faust being live action, the film is still quite creepy and not very difficult to get into.

Arbitrary song of the day: The Seatbelts – Elm


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