Food by Jan Švankmajer: Saturday Night Short Film #4
This is exactly how I eat food! And humans. What?
Food is Saturday Night Short Film #4, a weekly series that lands on–you guessed it–Saturday. I give a relatively bite-sized write-up about a medium that I feel is underappreciated.
Born in Prague in 1934, Jan Švankmajer is a legend of surrealism and stop motion animation. These are two things that I’m very much a fan of, and yet my experience with the man himself is only seven short films. I was at six before I decided to make this week’s Saturday Night Short Film his 1992 short Food.
Surrealism is inherently always a difficult thing to understand because it’s a series of strange images placed together. You have to go to a different mindset and really think about what you’re watching. So for that reason I won’t ever pretend to fully understand any surrealist works, despite my adoration for the methods and the visuals burnt onto the screen.
The same can be said about Food. On the surface it is three different segments about people eating, and they get more and more twisted until it’s full blown cannibalism. I saw much smarter people than myself say it’s a political allegory and once that was pointed out to me it made more sense. Control and falling in line are placed at the forefront of the message. What better metaphor for that than food, literally something we require to survive (I know, shocking).
The way he blends live action with stop motion only adds to the odd and sometimes scary tone of the flick, though I wouldn’t by any standard refer to this as a strict horror film. He can do horror but he often mixes in comedic elements.
It’s hard not to at least smile the first few times you see the mouths become inhuman as these people ingest their food. Likewise, while the events themselves get increasingly horrific, there’s still a satirical brand of humour planted within.
Food isn’t my favourite of his short films, that belongs to Jabberwocky, and that damn cat in it. I have yet to see any of his feature length films but even so, I need to explore his short filmography because his ideas translate well to the medium. And if you haven’t heard of Švankmajer, now is a good time to invest some time and see the man and his messed up creativity.
Švankmajer learned from this guy right here.