Faust (1994 film)
|Directed by||Jan Švankmajer|
|Produced by||Jaromír Kallista|
|Written by||Jan Švankmajer|
|Distributed by||Pandora Cinema|
Faust is a 1994 film directed by Jan Švankmajer. It merges live-action footage with stop-motion animation and includes puppetry and claymation. The film was produced by Jaromír Kallista and the title character is played by Petr Čepek. The film does not relate the legend of Faustus accurately according to the original, instead borrowing and blending elements from the story as told by Goethe and Christopher Marlowe with traditional folk renditions. It has elements of Modernism and Absurdism, and has a Kafkaesque atmosphere, enhanced by being set in Prague, and the tone is dark but humorous. The voices in the English version were provided by Andrew Sachs. The film was selected as the Czech entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 67th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.
The story begins on the streets of Prague on a grey morning busy with commuters. A colourless figure, played by Petr Čepek, emerges from a metro station. On his way home, the man encounters two men handing out flyers. It is a map of the city with a location marked. He shrugs and discards it, returning to his lodging. As he opens the door, a black cockerel runs out. The man sits down to eat, cutting himself a slice of bread. He discovers an egg concealed inside the loaf. He cracks it open but it is empty. Suddenly the lights go out and the wind rises. Objects are thrown about the room. The commotion ceases; the man goes to the window and looks down to where the two men from earlier are staring up at him. One of them holds the cockerel. The man closes the blind and returns to the table, where he finds the map and, using his own map of the city, traces out the location marked.
The next day, he goes to the spot indicated and enters a dilapidated building just as a man rushes from it in fear. He continues into the interior and descends to a dressing room, where he finds a charred script, a robe embroidered with sigils, greasepaint, a wig with a beard and a cap. Sitting down he addresses himself as Faust and speaks to himself (the first words spoken in the film) Faust's opening declaration of intent to follow black magic.
As the opening curtain is signalled, 'Faust' finds himself on a stage, a performance about to begin. Ripping off his costume, he breaks through the stage backdrop into a vault where an alchemist's laboratory is revealed; with the aid of a book of spells, he brings to life a clay child which grows horrifyingly into his own image before he smashes it. Warned by a marionette angel not to experiment further but encouraged by a demon to do as he pleases, he is sent by a wooden messenger to a café meeting with the two street-map men, identified as 'Cornelius' and 'Valdes', who give him a briefcase of magical devices. Returning to the vault, he uses these to summon Mephisto, offering Lucifer his soul in return for 24 years of self-indulgence.
At another café, 'Faust' is entertained by Cornelius and Valdes, who provide a fountain of wine from a table-top. He watches as a tramp, carrying a severed human leg, is pestered by a large black dog until he throws the limb into the river. 'Faust' finds a key in his food, uses it on a shop-front shutter, and is dragged back on stage by waiting stagehands. He mimes a scene from Gounod's opera, in which Mephisto returns and the pact with Lucifer is signed in blood. After the interval, 'Faust' visits Portugal to demonstrate his supernatural powers to the King: when a requested restaging of the David and Goliath contest is poorly received, he drowns the entire Portuguese court.
'Faust' is distracted from repentance by Helen of Troy, whom he seduces before realising she is a wooden demon in disguise. Lucifer arrives earlier than expected to claim his soul, and 'Faust' rushes in panic from the theatre, meeting a newcomer in at the doorway as he bursts into the street. He is felled by a red car, and Cornelius and Valdes watch in amusement as a tramp carries away a severed leg from the scene of the accident. A policeman checks the car, but it is without a driver.
- Petr Čepek – Faust
- Jan Kraus – Cornelius
- Vladimír Kudla – Waldes
- Antonin Zacpal – Old man
- Jiří Suchý – Kašpar
Awards and nominations
The film was screened at the Un Certain Regard section of the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, and at the 4th Kecskemét Animation Film Festival where it won the Award of Adult Audience. It also won the Czech Critics Award for Best Animated Film, and three Czech Lions, while it was nominated for four more. At the 29th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, it was nominated for the Crystal Globe and won the Special Jury Prize.
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- 4. Kecskeméti Animációs Filmfesztivál 1. Nemzetközi Animációs Játékfilm Fesztivál. Kecskeméti Animáció Film Fesztivál. 1996.