Leonarduv Denik (1972)

Run Time - 12 min.  |   Countries - Czechoslovakia  |  
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Jan Svankmajer's Leonarduv Denik is best-known not for what it is but for what it wrought: the Czech authorities banned the animator from the screen for seven years. In retrospect, this seems a bit of an overreaction, for while Denik is clearly political, it is hardly as powerful as such an action would lead one to believe. Indeed, Denik's points regarding war, authoritarian abuse, and inhumanity are relatively tame. For students of Svankmajer, Denik is more noteworthy not for what it says but for how it says it. Unlike most of Svankmajer's work, Denik's animation has a traditional basis. There's a distinct absence of puppets and a paucity of stop-motion animation, with the "flat" animation relieved only by juxtaposed found live-action footage. But Svankmajer's flat animation is still distinctive, drawn (literally) from da Vinci and utilizing a sketchbook style -- line drawings, incomplete figures, and vellum backgrounds. The effect is visually pleasing, and Svankmajer's use of editing and music creates a sense of drama and motion. Unfortunately, the "sense" of drama doesn't develop into full-fledged drama, with the result that Denik is ultimately an interesting but not totally satisfying curiosity.