meeting J Svankmajer

Ok, this is the story, i think every Svankmajer lover will like it.

Since a long time i wanted to meet Jan Svankmajer. Not for a very special reason, but just for collecting impressions, taking pictures, ask him some questions. But how ? he doesn't speak english, german or french, only czech, and i don't.

We have a common friend, Bertrand Schmitt, among other things member of the prag surrealist group, still active (yes yes yes) but it's not easy just to pop up even with a go between and be in a comfortable position.

So i decided to pretend that i was a journalist and that i wanted to write an article about Svankmajer. I planned a meeting with Bertrand Schmitt to go and ask Svankmajer a few questions in his studio near Prag.

I proposed that potential article to different people in france, and at the end the very good monthly Mouvement (David Sanson at that time) was interested to publish an interview of this obscure man.

Here we are, at his studio.

This house is his cinema studio, some 30 kilometers out of Prague. Here he shoots, edits and make animation.
It's a sort of old farm, renovated in a fake baroc style.

Getting closer, one can easily recognize Svankmajer's style :

I had prepared my questions, which is sent via email, and he replied, and gave me the answer on paper.
So let's get into the studio and see what it look like.

Yes that is the door.
This visit was at the time (2010, march), where he was making his movie "Surviving his life" (that's the title i know).
The technical principle of the movie was : shooting some scenes in real with people in decor, and the rest is animation based on pictures of the same characters.

So here you can see one his asssistant with a folder of papers with hundreds of feet, heads, arms, etc. from pictures of the characters. These small components are animated on a black and white background. As you can imagine, there are thousands of them, and it takes hours and hours !

Now, let's see the master. he comes, very gentle, makes a little tour inside the studio to show me all the rooms and how he works.
He talks in czech, and my translator, Anna Pradovna keeps me informed from time to time.

I'm quite sorry not to understand what he says directly, but i recorded the conversation, so maybe some one, one day, will tell me e-x-a-c-t-l-y !

To come back to the conception of the movie, these little paper bits are cut, shot one after the other in order to make scenes.

Then in a small room upstairs, this is the editing room. You can see the rolls of film wihch have been cut.
they (Svankmajer and his colleague, the lady in charge of the editing) look at the movie on a small monitor.

So that's it, at the end he gives a paper where he printed his answers, and i go to the next bar with Bertrand Schmitt and Anna to read them and they translate them for me.
This artile has been published by the magazine Mouvement(.net), but i reproduce this interview on this blog.
Unfortunately, it's in french and i guess most of you guys don't speak french so....


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