From Svankmaier’s Faust

Work is a little slow these days, so I’m putting my time in with the movies. I recently watched the 1994 version of the Faust legend, as directed by Jan Svankmaier and featuring a cast of life-sized marionettes, claymation, and some real, live Czechs speaking English like this:

FAUST How comes it then that thou art now out of hell with me?
MEFISOFELE Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it. Thinks thou that I, who saw the face of God and tasted the eternal joys of heaven, am not tormented with ten thousand hells in being deprived of everlasting bliss?

Actually, that’s one live human and one wooden puppet. I liked the puppets. It’s a good movie; would that more directors were as daring or willing to follow their eccentric inspiration as Jan Svankmaier. It’d be boring as hell to trace what he borrows from Marlowe and Goethe; enough to say it has the same reach: heaven and hell and everything else he can possibly fit with a couple of hours: a hole in a table spouts wine, Faust makes it with a life-sized wooden puppet, and an onlooker at the scene of an accident takes off down the street with a severed human (not wooden) leg. Arty, scary, and weird, weird, weird – I mean that in a good way.

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