The Death of Stalinism in Bohemia (1990)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Political Satire, Satire  |   Run Time - 10 min.  |   Countries - UK  |  
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Subtitled "A Work of Agitprop," The Death of Stalinism in Bohemia will be an obscure surrealist exercise for those without some knowledge of 20th century Czechoslovakian history. It's a richer experience if one is familiar with life in the country between World War II and 1990, but it can be enjoyed simply for the visceral experience it provides with its typically (for Jan Svankmajer) stunning visuals and keen sense of disorientation. Like so many other Svankmajer works, it is a roller coaster; the viewer has to surrender himself totally to the experience and simply take in the picture while watching it, rather than attempting to understand it. (After the film is over, contemplation and reflection -- and reviewings -- can better bring about understanding.) In the moment, the viewer is taken by the bizarre juxtaposition of images, the manner in which Svankmajer uses creativity to bring about destruction and the way in which the filmmaker imbues utilitarian objects and images with both meaning and memory. Understanding that the smaller bust that is drawn from the mutilated bust of Stalin is Gottwald, the leader of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia, helps the viewer to more precisely see what Svankmajer was thinking when he made the film; but it's more important for the viewer to simply see how he himself reacts to Stalinism and what resonances it creates in himself.