[TWO NIGHTS ONLY, REVIVAL] Old age has made an honest man of Jan Švankmajer. “This is not a formal experiment,” the 75-year-old Švankmajer says at the introductory monologue of his 2010 film, “just a poor, imperfect substitute for a live-action film.” He’s referring to the fact that the film is shot using stop-motion of paper cutouts, but his statement also applies to the film’s plot. Rather than offering relief to an audience oversteeped in idealized Hollywood imagery, the admission just inspires dread, which lingers throughout the 109-minute runtime. Švankmajer’s usual surreal conceits have been domesticated: Surviving Life’s protagonist, the everyman Evžen (Václav Helšus), wears worn suits to his job as a desk jockey, and his wife constantly nags him to buy lottery tickets. But in the dream world, a beautiful woman (Klára Issová), whose name constantly changes, seduces him and brings him back to her apartment. Unable to remain in the dream world despite winning the lottery and buying a secret apartment to sleep in all day, Evžen begins seeing a shrink. As portraits of Freud and Jung gesture and fight above him, the film painfully fulfills its tagline of “a psychoanalytical comedy.” While sometimes quirky, there is frustratingly little of Švankmajer’s trademark creepiness in Surviving Life, and Freudian psychoanalysis, which has long since jumped the shark, is not questioned for a minute by any of the characters—or by Švankmajer himself.
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- Release Date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
- Critic's Score: C
- Watch the trailer