Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Lunacy, Jan Svankmajer, Czech Republic (2005).

Jan Svankmajer, Lunacy (Czech Republic, 2005).

Lunacy deals most significantly with dualities of mind and body, anarchistic liberty and severe punishment, and, formally, stop motion animation and live action.
Jean is the protagonist and witness to the two extreme forms of social order that the film diametrically opposes. They are witnessed most fully in the insane asylum. The Marquis and Murlloppe run the insane asylum as a practice in total liberation and freedom. Anyone can do whatever anyone wants at any time. Later in the film it is learned that the Marquis and Murlloppe came into power only after revolting against the real Drs and locking them up in cells in the basement of the asylum. When the real Drs escape their imprisonment with the aid of Jean they show the other extreme order of rule. They believe in strict order and severe physical punishment. They believe that in order to cure the mind the body must be punished. Physical abuse to a mentally ill individual returns harmony to the individual. Thus is tied in the film’s constant dialectic between body and mind.
The interesting fact each form of rule is that they inevitably lead to similar harm. Total liberty without any restrictions at all inevitably means that people eventually begin taking advantage of one another, abusing each other. The more powerful of the group take control over the weaker and submit them to whatever they like. Such as does the Marquis in his bizarre rituals that seem to involve rape and physical indulgence. The other side of the token is upfront with its sadomasochistic intent. Strict order, control and severe punishment in the form of beatings and bodily mutilations seem outright fascistic in all its sadistic indulgence. Although each thing seems like an opposite of the other, they cause the same effect. The film suggests this through its action, explicitly. This leads one to suggest that the film may also be saying something very similar about body and mind as well as sanity and insanity. Western culture is engrained with the idea that the body is totally different and separate from the mind. However, there have been many challenges to the enveloping assurance of this notion and Lunacy seems to participate in its critique. The popular belief is not always the right.
Likewise the film also intercuts, from scene to scene, between live action and animation. The animation is stop motion and therefore deliberately artificial looking. Its artificiality makes it all the creepier for what is constantly animated into motion is dead, raw meat. The meat crawls and moves around and even often mimics the action of the previous scene. Complete artificiality of animation as juxtaposed with live action beckons the question of what exactly is the fundamental difference between reality and representation. The live meat of the animation sequences is rarely identifiable as body parts, but when it is one can often discern eye balls and tongues. Two of the thirteen corporeal punishments that the Drs impose on their patients that the spectator is treated to the sight of are the removal of eyes and the removal of the tongue. The meat then seems somehow connected with the severity of the punishment.
The animation sections don’t advance the plot at all, but do make the often disturbing nature of the plot all the more so. The animation and the plot independently are not really too creepy or disturbing, but when they are interwoven and coupled so brilliantly as in Lunacy then each makes the other far more creepier and oddly disturbing.

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