Et Cetera (1966)

Genres - Avant-garde / Experimental  |   Sub-Genres - Surrealist Film  |   Run Time - 7 min.  |   Countries - Czechoslovakia  |  
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Most of the short films of Jan Svankmajer are (literally) amazing, and Et Cetera is no exception. A brief meditation that finds the concept of progress is a myth when put into practice by man, it is (again literally) an exercise in futility. The very visual forms that Svankmajer uses in this film -- childish cut-outs, silhouettes, stencils, simple line drawings -- reinforce this idea; they are crude and elemental, far from sophisticated (on the surface), stating by their very presence that man cannot really progress beyond his childhood beginnings. That man is doomed to repeat himself in an endless cycle of superficial "progress" that doesn't actually bring about a change in the essential way that man deals with others and with himself is evidenced in the three segments that make up Et Cetera. Each ends with the title flashed on the screen, implying that the more things change, the more they remain the same. The beginning and end segments blatantly explore the limits imposed upon man, by first examining a man who keeps trying to fly and finally learns how to, only to discover there's really nowhere to go, and then by examining a man who destroys a house he cannot enter and then rebuilds it, only to discover he must destroy it to leave. The middle section is a bit more oblique; the limits here are symbolic, as man's attempts to tame his bestial nature make him more beastlike. In seven minutes, Svankmajer offers a pessimistic lesson in futility with which many may differ, but which is presented in a manner that is striking and original.