Byt (1968)

“Byt” (1968)


Codified cinema

this was my first contact with Svankmajer. And what a strong impression i got! He is ‘labeled’ with the surrealist movement, and is frequently attached to the other surrealist names in cinema. In this film alone, i don’t check any of what might be called surrealism, except for some aesthetic choices, and some physics of the world within i will explain. That is because surrealism had always to do with seeking to deliver through art states of consciousness which are beyond self-awareness. Dreams, for instance. Things which we can’t control, which are not material, we can’t touch, which happen in undefined time (in shape and duration). None of that is here. This has, of course, a veiled political speech between the lines. We have a character which is told where to go, he follows arrows which lead to wherever someone wants. He is given everything, but he can’t taste anything. He is taken to doors, but he is not allowed to open them. He is given food, but than he has a dog to eat it. This takes place entirely inside an apartment. Of course this is (or could be) the direct metaphor to the Soviet Union, the iron curtain, all those elements which motivated many filmmakers and artists to create art that could express desperation and in satisfaction without alerting censors. That’s not surrealist (believing now in some of the ideologies used than might be surrealistic, this is not). But this is, instead, a fantastic experiment. I don’t know much about Czech animation, or Czech cinema, but i’m willing to explore it. I saw a short, a while ago, ‘Prílepek’, it was a very good experience from someone who learned a lot from this Czech reference. So i’m sensing a continuity that i care about exploring, so i’ll be looking for more of these works.

What we have here (and that is more close we can get to the surrealism mood here) is a world which defines its own rules. I mean physical rules. It’s a world were the material behaviour of materials and objects is not the same as in our real world. It is possible for a man to place an arm across a wall, or a wood bed to completely disintegrate as if it was eaten up. That is what takes us to another dimension, and the frantic pace and editing also. The stop-motion is remarkable, and the technical level really very high here.

My opinion: 4/5 don’t miss it.

This comment on IMDb


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