Svankmajer used every weapon in his animated arsenal — including actual fire and brimstone — to bring his own unflinching fever dream of Faust to life. A broiling carnival of demon puppets and unsettling lyricism, the film follows an Everyman through Prague as he choreographs his own ruin. Though every frame is unmistakably his, Svankmajer’s Faust is dizzy with allusions — nightmarish life-size puppets of Lucifer and Helen of Troy kick up the ashes of Marlowe, Goethe, and Kafka as the timeless story furtively dismantles and reassembles itself. Svankmajer finds increasingly novel ways to illustrate the Everyman’s tenuous (and debatable) relationship with his own free will — an egg cracked open turns the whole world dark, pointed cuts reveal human hands manipulating puppet strings. As in the Faust legend itself, it’s the creator’s cryptic intentions that transform an old saw about a deal with the devil into a mirror of unspeakable existential horror.
Dir. Jan Svankmajer, 1994, 35mm, 97 min.

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