Bizarre new film puts modern twist on grim, traditional fairy tale

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A new Czech film, by famous director Jan Svankmajer, is set to premier this Thursday in Prague. "Otesanek" is a traditional Czech fairy tale, with a rather grim storyline, a perfect vehicle for a Svankmajer story. The director is best known for bizarre films that mix live action with classical animation. Last week, the international film and television festival, Febiofest, included a pre-screening of this film, in order to highlight new Czech works. Pavla Navratilova has the details.

The new film, "Otesanek", will premiere this week in Prague, although it has already been shown to various international audiences. A long-term project, which took more than two years to produce, the filming alone of this two hour feature lasted a year. Otesanek is a unique mixture of live action, clay/wood animation and puppetry. I caught up with Shimon Shemtov one of the international film students involved in making the film, and asked him what audiences can expect from this film. Director Jan Svankmajer is internationally renowned for his films "Neco z Alenky" and "Lekce Faust", which also use animation to bring fantasy to life. Otesanek is labeled a black comedy, and yet blends together elements of children's fairy tales and traditional horror films. I asked Mr Svankmajer how he would describe the genre of this film:

"I wouldn't really call it a black comedy, more black grotesque, which is something totally different from a comedy. Black 'grotesque' has within it a natural tendency towards horror, and this film really falls somewhere between horror and comedy, displaying both. To this end, the fairy tale theme achieved this well."

"This film has been put together a bit differently than my previous projects. It's different in that it has a classic storyline. Just like they taught us in film school, it has a plot, crisis, catastrophe... making it altogether a bit more 'watchable'. Meanwhile, thematically this film parallels my earlier works."

Author: Pavla Navrátilová
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