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Jan Švankmajer answers Skwigly readers’ questions

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The title photo of Jan Švankmajer's Indiegogo campaign for his last feature film, Insects (©Athanor)

The title photo of Jan Švankmajer’s Indiegogo campaign for his last feature film, Insects (©Athanor)

Following the successful launch of celebrated Czech animation filmmaker Jan Švankmajer’s proposed “last film” Insects , the film has already amassed over 130% of its initial target, with a hopeful stretch goal in place that would guarantee the film’s production budget via crowdfunding alone. As part of our recent interview discussing his work and latest endeavours, Skwigly were thrilled to give our readers the opportunity to grill Jan Švankmajer themselves! Read on to see his responses:

Combining animation and live action together always proves to be a problem. The animation doesn’t have blurred frames, which is why animated motion has a different character then live motion. Therefore I always seek to make cuts in mid-movement when I’m cutting from live to animated shots (and vice versa). I start the motion in animation and finish it by moving the camera. As for the whole sequences I use lowered frame rate (e.g. 16fps) or I animate the actors.

I have to admit that I don’t follow the animation community very much. I regard the animated film as just one of the means of expression. Poetry is singular no matter the way we choose to take hold of it. So forgive me, but amongst the people whose work I follow are a very few animators. Specifically: Brothers Quay and David Lynch.

Jan Švankmajer working on one of the unique lithographies that will be available as rewards in the ongoing Indiegogo campaign for his final film. (© Lukáš Bucman)

Jan Švankmajer working on one of the unique lithographies that will be available as rewards in the ongoing Indiegogo campaign for his final film. (©Lukáš Bucman)

According to Freud, any process of artmaking is a sublimation of libido. Hence it brings appeasement to its creator. So if you have functional libido it’s not even possible for the creation not to satisfy you.

Probably none, because it would be a big problem to screen it there. Nevertheless I consider Conspirators of Pleasure to be my most authentic film, To The Basement the most autobiographical one and Lunacy is probably the most philosophical piece.

From the making of Jan Švankmajer's film Lunacy, 2005

From the making of Jan Švankmajer’s film Lunacy (©2005 Kazumi Terazaki)

What’s it like animating fresh meat “puppets” (like tongues, for example) – do you have to animate them quickly or do you prepare the set/prop so that they last the shoot? And what technique do you use to animate them, do you just manipulate the meat a certain way or do you build an “armature” for them? Are there any materials or methods left that you would still like to animate?
Michael Tharme

The meat is animated partly by hanging it on nylon threads, partly by sticking aluminium wires into it. For my work the topic itself is pivotal, not the technique nor the material. I don’t begin to work on a film by asking myself: What haven’t I animated yet?

After a working day the meat we animate goes gray under the lamps and begins to reek. Therefore when we use flesh or tongues in our shooting, we require an allied butcher who must provide us with fresh goods every day. So no, I didn’t eat it. My dogs did though.

There certainly isn’t, because surrealism is not a form of art. Surrealism is a specific revolutionary view on life and the world itself. There is no canon of surrealistic esthetics. Surrealism is a path.

Your violence often seems gastronomical; aggressor and victim seem to relate to one another almost like ingredients in a cooking show (eg. the deaths in Virile Games). Do you purposefully aim to give human suffering an ‘edible’ characteristic?
Alex Boya

As Dalí once wrote: “Beauty should be edible, or not at all.” We could incorporate violence into this statement: “Violence should be edible, or not at all.” I’d like to point out that I’m always concerned with the negation of a negation, and that’s not negativity.

Read our recent interview with Jan Švankmajer on his latest project Insects, which will be accepting donations until July 5th. To learn more about the projects and the variety of exclusive perks available to funders visit

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Lewis Heriz
@themooks @skwigly Yeah! That's when it becomes << actual magic >>
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James Howard
@lewisheriz @skwigly That first time you see it move is such a buzz and then you add sound and it just enters a whole new stratosphere.
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Lewis Heriz
@themooks @skwigly I know it's kind of obvious, but I used to see it as 'important but secondary'. I don't see it as secondary any more.
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James Howard
@lewisheriz @skwigly Sound does bring it to life.
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