Views and reviews
The ideas expressed in the story of Faust never get old and seem to grow more relevant with time… In Jan Svankmajer’s 1994 retelling, this animation genius and surrealist creates a world of shifting realities, one which illustrates that we create our own destruction… This bizarre classic breathes new life into a myth frequently employed to explore human desire, folly, and frailty. Svankmajer’s deft mix of stop-motion animation, puppetry, and live action adds depth to this exploration as it does to the art of filmmaking.
Mike Wood, Identity Theory
…The director grafts a wealth of themes, motifs, allusions and gags, his method an expertly executed, profoundly imaginative combination of live action, claymation, puppet theatre, stop-motion animation and special effects. There are a couple of dramatically flat moments, when one feels Svankmajer hasn’t quite got the measure of the feature-length narrative, but for the most part this is a film which galvanises the mind and astonishes the eye. In a word, magic.
…What makes Svankmajer’s films unique and terrifying is their mixture of dreamlike fluidity, jarringly abrupt transitions and crystalline lucidity. Anything can happen in them. In this “Faust” the horrors start when the anti-hero cracks open an empty egg and the world goes suddenly dark. But, volatile or weird as everything may seem, there’s nothing fuzzy about the way we see it. This is the nightmare we won’t forget.
Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune
….Faust was originally intended as a production for the Laterna magika theatre. Svankmajer describes it as a “variety collage” in which elements from Marlowe, Goethe, Christian Dietrich Grabbe, Gounod and the Czech folk puppet play (Kopecky) are all framed by the reality of contemporary Prague… The films hero, an ordinary man in a dirty raincoat, lives in a rundown flat in Prague. Here (as in Conspirators of Pleasure), it is noticeable that Svankmajer avoids any exotic images of “tourist Prague”, preferring nondescript streets and down-at-heel cafes serving nauseous food… Like Alice Faust moves from scene to scene and from one world to another but, this time, also from text to text, with a time out for the occasional cigarette or glass of beer. In both Alice and Faust, we encounter narratives in which the identity of the central character is unstable and an episodic and serial construction recalling Svankmajer’s short films… Svankmajer’s ignoring certain aspects of classical narrative construction is no different from what Antonioni, Godard, Miklos Jancso, Chytilova and others have done – in each case the audience is, in some way, challenged and required to make an adjustment. In Faust, the narrative is constantly fragmented by the shift from text to text, from opera to folk puppetry, from the “high” to the “low”. As Svankmajer himself puts it, “high and low together create a certain magic”.
Peter Hames – Czech and Slovak Cinema: Theme and Tradition
The film is not so much another version of the Faust legend as, precisely, an exploration of what the legend can reveal to us today. Faust, of course, is associated with Prague and with its alchemical tradition, more precisely with the point at which alchemy starts to go wrong, that is, when it becomes detached from a disinterested quest for knowledge and becomes self-interested… In fact, in Svankmajer’s film, Faust appears to enter into the diabolic pact not from any great desire, but out of boredom: he can’t be bothered to resist and barely protests when the Devil doesn’t keep his part of the bargain. This is partly a comment on the way in which people came to accept Stalinism. We should, however, always remember that for Svankmajer Stalinism was nothing but a particular emanation of the sickness of modern civilization: the fact that consumerism has come to replace Stalinism does not reflect any improvement in the structure of society… It is the will to modify the environment so that is serves human needs that Svankmajer sees the sickness of modern society as essentially residing. From his earliest films, he has been concerned to question the way we tend to try to reduce the world to our own dimensions…
Michael Richardson, Surrealism and Cinema