Mar 28 - Apr 28 2012
Cornell Cinema / Surreal World of Jan Svankmajer


Born in Prague in the same year that the Czech Surrealist Group was founded, Svankmajer studied theatre, stage design, and puppetry under a government hostile to the "decadence" of its leading artistic movement. The exemplary stylist has produced over twenty mesmerizing short films and six astonishing feature-length films, all painstakingly crafted, and has acted as mentor and inspiration to such esteemed artists as the Brothers Quay, Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton. In this exciting series, Cornell Cinema will screen all of Svankmajer's major feature length films, including the Ithaca premiere of his latest, Surviving Life (Theory and Practice) (2010), as well as a collection of shorts. The series was organized in association with curator Irena Kovarova. Additional support provided by the Czech Center New York. Cosponsored at Cornell with the CCA.  All screenings in Willard Straight Theatre.  All 35 mm film prints!

ALICE (1989) - Wednesday, March 28 at 7pm  

Svankmajer creates a twisted Wonderland in his first feature length film. Using all of the discarded relics of human society, he takes his viewers to a grotesque world where the most unlikely and disturbing things can happen.   

CONSPIRATORS OF PLEASURE (1996) - Wednesday, April 4 at 7pm

Master fabulist Jan Svankmajer weaves inspiration from Buñuel, De Sade, Freud and Max Ernst to create a splendidly bizarre live action feature revolving around acast of people who engage in grotesque obsessive rituals.

LUNACY (2005) - Wednesday, April 11 at 7pm     

Mix two parts Edgar Allan Poe, one part Marquis de Sade, and lots of animated meat, and you have the inspiration for Czech surrealist Svankmajer's fifth live action feature film, an allegory for our crazy world, in which the lunatics take over the asylum. "One of the best films of the year." ( More at

SVANKMAJER SHORTS - Friday, April 13 at 7pm   

Jan Svankmajer’s short films range from absurdist to allegorical, filled with startling images that celebrate unrestrained imagination while satirizing the machinery of a repressive society. This selection was programmed by Irena Kovarova and includes Flat (1968, 13 mins), The Garden (1968, 19 mins), Jabberwocky (1971, 12 mins), Dimensions of Dialogue (1971, 12 mins), Food (1992, 17 mins), Darkness Light Darkness (1990, 10 mins).

Ithaca Premiere! 

SURVIVING LIFE (THEORY AND PRACTICE) (2010) - Wednesday, April 18 at 7pm     

Celebrated Czech filmmaker Jan Švankmajer explores surrealism’s fixation with the fathers of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, in his latest feature. A mix of live-action and cut-out animation, Surviving Life is an alternate reality rom-com in which the protagonist pursues the woman of his dreams (literally), making regular visits to an analyst to ensure rather than cure his unconscious fantasies. Waking and dreaming realities blur into a hybrid dimension in which Rubenesque, chicken-headed women roam the streets naked, giant apples roll along back alleys and God is a grumpy old woman with bad breath. “Fear of life is a basic human emotion,” explains the award-winning animator. “If, as Freud tells us, the purpose of dreams is to fulfill our secret or manifest desires, then surely somewhere deep inside us that most basic of human desires must constantly be being fulfilled: to survive one’s own life.” More at

FAUST (1994) - Wednesday, April 25 at 7pm     

Animation and actors work together in this dark, modern re-telling of Goethe and Marlowe's stories. Evocative, chilling, and often silly, Faust is an enchanting work of art.

LITTLE OTIK (2000) - Saturday, April 28 9:45pm

Czech animation master Jan Svankmajer borrows from folklore for this psycho Pinocchio story of Karel and Bozena, a childless couple who adopt a piece of driftwood as their child, only to have their love and attention turn their "son" into a man-eating monster.


Cornell Cinema has been cited as one of the best campus film exhibition programs in the country, screening close to 300 different films/videos each year, seven nights a week in the beautiful Willard Straight Theatre. Each calendar includes an array of classic Hollywood and foreign films, independent titles, documentaries, experimental work, recent international cinema, silent films with live musical accompaniment, cult classics and recent Hollywood and arthouse hits, in addition to guest appearances by visiting film and videomakers.

For full schedule of Cornell Cinema events visit