The Cabinet of Jan Švankmajer
d. Brothers Quay, Keith Griffiths / 1984 / UK / 14 mins
Viewed on: Sky Arts 1 (UK)
I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but this is actually the first Brothers Quay creation that I have ever seen, despite being something of a fan of stop-motion animation generally. The Cabinet of Jan Švankmajer is, of course, their tribute to the unavoidable influence of the undisputed master of stop-motion animation himself, Jan Švankmajer.
A series of nine vignette ‘chapters’ serve to illustrate various aspects of Švankmajer’s creative process, as he takes a small boy under his wing and shows him his craft. This short was actually compiled from elements originally created for a much longer documentary on Švankmajer for Channel 4’s Visions series in the mid 1980s. Nevertheless, the individual elements stand quite well on their own, particularly if you are familiar with Švankmajer’s work and that of one of his key influences, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, the 16th century Italian painter most famous for his portrait heads made entirely of objects such as fruit, vegetables, books and flowers. If you’ve got the energy, playing spot the reference could be fun.
If you like Švankmajer or are just a fan of stop-motion in general, I’d certainly suggest checking this out. If you haven’t seen any Švankmajer before, I’d suggest skipping the middle-men and going straight for the real deal, especially the early shorts and his wild feature films. Oh, and if by some coincidence you’re a Tool fan who’s wondering where Adam Jones got all the ideas for his early music videos, Švankmajer’s your man.
The Cabinet of Jan Švankmajer: