Lunacy

Another crackpot bit of surrealism from famed Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer, who made his name from a number of gruesome stop-motion animated shorts and who has been writing and directing live action features – all with varying degrees of animation – since 1988. Fans of the filmmaker will find more of his usual craziness here, in this story about a young man who suffers from delusional nightmares and his adventures in an insane asylum with a madman who fashions his clothing, his lifestyle and his philosophy after the Marquis de Sade.

The story – inspired by the writings of both de Sade and Edgar Allan Poe – takes a while to find its point, but once it does, it's a strong one. The best way I can describe Lunacy is to say that it succeeds on every level where the self-congratulatory Hollywood film Quills failed: it's perverse, profane, blasphemous, angry, funny, troubling, and completely over-the-top. Pretty much like Svankmajer's previous features Conspirators of Pleasure and Little Otik, only with more serious undertones. It's a great film.

The only thing that bothered me was its misogynist attitude, missing in Svankmajer's previous work. (I wouldn't recommend this to sensitive vegetarians or religious conservatives either.) But if you can get past that, you can enjoy some good old-fashioned surrealist filmmaking, where digital effects are nonexistent and the story is frequently interrupted by brief displays of raw meat, eyeballs, and brains dancing around in stop-motion animation. It's safe to say that nobody makes films like Jan Svankmajer does. I hope the 72-year-old director gets to make a few more before he shuffles off this mortal coil.