Faust is my favorite Svankmajer film, though maybe for the rather tame reason that I'm not generally a Svankmajer fan. I'm a big fan of reflexive cinema though, and in that category there are few films better than Faust.

To be precise, Faust is a movie about a real life story about the play "Faust" invading the real world (the Marlowe version, if the English translation of this movie is to be trusted). Furthermore it is a puppet version of the play, which invades the world through stop-motion animation. Though this sounds confusing, I should assure those who haven't seen the film, that it actually is confusing, but it doesn't really matter because the viewer is constantly distracted from the story of the film by a series of sight gags, designed by an old surrealist to keep his work entertaining.

The main character of this film is tempted by a collection of animated puppets to act the part of Faust in both real life, and in a puppet play (the two intermingle seemlessly). The man goes along with it, seemingly because he knows that he is supposed to, and because his temptation and fall into the clutches of Mephistopheles is in the script. Of course despite the fact that it is all just a play, the man actually dies at the end of the movie, run over by a car no one was driving. As is to be expected when you play games with Satan.

If you read interviews with Svankmajer, he often talks about animation as a form of alchemy, as a way to bring objects to life. Something that Svankmajer adds to this essentially Shakespearian/Stoppardian tale about the theatricality of life, including its inevitable end (though Stoppard is also Czech, so there might be more to that connection then one would imagine), is a victory of the object over the living. The puppets that lure Faust into selling his soul for a variety of powers over the puppet world, are both objects and ideas. Mephistopheles in this film is literally made out of an eternal object (clay), while personifying a cultural fear (evil). Both the "essences" of the puppet are particularly impervious to time, while, as this film clearly shows, the essences of men can die off at a moments notice.

It is a contrast only Svankmajer could pull off. His little animated objects are always mocking us, because it is the objects that we interact with, which are slowly driving us to our death.

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