23 June 201126 March 2012 Main Posts / Reviews / Culture At the Sydney Film Festival: Surviving Life Peter Francis Surviving Life Director: Jan Švankmajer ★★★ Czech director Jan Švankmajer’s Surviving Life is a whole movie in the style of Terry Gilliam’s animations. Or, more accurately, Gilliam’s animations are in the style of Švankmajer, who was a major influence on the Monty Python member. In an amusing introduction Švankmajer explains the film is a ‘psychoanalytic comedy’. He continues to say that the stop-motion style has been used in place of live-action because that was too expensive. The story has its origin, he says, in one dream he had, which he then wrote the rest of the scenes around. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant; Surviving Life is a surrealist film where the only reality is dreams. The film tells the story of Eugene (Václav Helšus) who is bored with his banal but contented existence. More and more he escapes into vivid dreams of a mysterious woman in red. He comes to treasure these dreams more than anything else and when they don’t occur, seeks help from a psychoanalyst as well as pursuing his own means of recapturing this second life. The film is a diligent student of both Freud and Jung. Dr. Holubová (Daniela Bakerová) explains the dreams variously as Eugene’s anima and as an Oedipus complex. Photographs of the two famed psychologists regularly come to blows hanging in Dr. Holubová’s office. The film is quite funny, largely due to its surrealism, unpredictable mise-en-scene and bizarre cutaways from the action. It is set in a black and white Czech Republic populated with chickens, snakes, chicken heads on the bodies of naked women, bulldog heads on the bodies of men in suits, giant eggs and dozens of other strange and sometimes gruesome images. Near the end of the film Švankmajer ties the many loose ends up in one monologue delivered by a previously unintroduced old wise man. Though the conclusion is a hilarious psychoanalytic conundrum I felt it would have been better left hinted at rather than the answers given in this way, which felt like a synopsis of the story dropped into the audience’s lap in case they didn’t know what had been happening in the previous hour and a half. Peter Francis Peter Francis is a student at UTS undertaking a Communications degree and majoring in Writing and Cultural Studies. This in no way prepares him for life outside university. More by Peter Francis Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 1 December 20221 December 2022 Reviews Calling the racist a racist: Janaka Malwatta’s blackbirds don’t mate with starlings John Kinsella Malwatta is a skilled and motivated user of tone and tonality in expression, and he shifts between perpetrator and victim with a disturbing but powerful ease: we hear the racists in the hospital, we hear them at the barbecue, and we hear the racism coming from the mouths of white leaders and dissemblers. 1 First published in Overland Issue 228 21 November 202223 November 2022 Reviews Reclaiming our cities: on Paris Marx’s Road to Nowhere Lizzie O'Shea These industries lack the capacity (and inclination) to focus on human flourishing, and have actively skirted accountability for design decisions. Through this book, the social structures that have shaped our lived environment are not just rendered visible, they become hard to unsee. Road to Nowhere pulls the mind of the reader towards the myriad of possibilities that come into view if we think of our world without the car.