Search - Jan Svankmajer: The Ossuary and Other Tales on DVD

Jan Svankmajer: The Ossuary and Other Tales
Jan Svankmajer The Ossuary and Other Tales
Actor: Frantisek Filipovský
Director: Jan Svankmajer
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Animation
NR     2006     2hr 7min

Studio: Kino International Release Date: 09/12/2006


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Movie Details

Actor: Frantisek Filipovský
Director: Jan Svankmajer
Creators: Svatopluk Malý, Jan Svankmajer, Milada Sádková, Josef Soukup
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Animation
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Animation
Studio: Kimstim
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 09/12/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 2hr 7min
Screens: Black and White,Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 12
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: Czech
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Milos Forman once offered, "Disney + Buńuel = Svankmajer."
Galina | Virginia, USA | 10/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Jan Svankmajer's new DVD "The Ossuary and Other Tales" is out. It contains some of his less known and underrated masterpieces:

"The Last Trick" - Two magicians try to outdo each other in performing magic tricks, where the last trick would be disappearance of both. As in "Dimensions of Dialogue", "The Last Trick" explores inability to communicate and impossibility of dialogue and understanding.
1964/color/11:30 mins

"Historia Naturae" - mesmerizing parade of myriads of images composed of eight sections, each devoted to a different category of creature. These are: Aquatilia, Hexapoda, Pisces, Reptilia, Aves, Mammalia, Simiae and Homo
1967, color, 9 mins

"Johann Sebastian Bach" - great combination of music and images
1965, black & white, 9:30 mins

"Don Juan"
1970/color/31 mins
Based on The Don Juan story, Svankmajer made this 30 minutes long festival of the colors, images, and unique techniques that are perfectly follow the European tradition of telling the marionette tale. Combining dark humor and tragic, even shocking scenes, "Don Juan" is certainly one of the master's most memorable and remarkable films.

"The Garden (Zahrada)" - I think that the Czech title of this black/white short film matches it better than the English one. "Zahrada" means Fence and the fence in the movie catches our as well as Frank's, the guy who visits with his friend Joseph, attention immediately and makes us feel unsettling and uncomfortable. Josef's garden fence, you see, is made up of the standing and holding hands people, men and women. They just stand there silently, never complaining and seem to be eager to do a good job for their employer. Josef seems to own a very important secret that allows him to keep his "fence" in good shape and strict order and he whispers it to Frank's ear. We will never find out the secret but it must be life-changing because the next we see - Frank joins the fence and is ready to serve to the bearer of the secret. This short film alone makes Svankmajer lawful heir to the one and only master of surrealism in the history of Cinema, Don Luis Bunuel. Svankmajer calls himself a "militant Surrealist" - very appropriate.
1968, B&W, 19 mins

"The Castle of Otranto" is animation/short/mocumentary based on "The Castle of Otranto", a 1764 novel by Horace Walpole, the first gothic novel. The novel takes place in Otranto in southern Italy. In Jan Svankmajer's mocumentary, the amateur archeologist Dr Vozáb has set to prove that the supernatural ghost love story takes place not in Italy but in Otranto Castle near Nachod in Czechoslovakia. The events of the story where the characters step out from the pages of the book and presented in animation, are intercut with the interview between the Dr Vozáb who is passionate about his findings that proves his idea and a TV reporter who is skeptical about the whole idea... until the very last shot in the movie.

"Darkness-Light-Darkness" is the only film I've seen before; it was included on "Alice" DVD. This 7 minutes short is a fascinating clay animation where a man constructs himself from clay (literally), being a God and his creature at the same time, putting the different parts of body together in a very small room. The more parts find their pace, the bigger the man becomes, the smaller and more suffocating the room gets. "Darkness-Light-Darkness" has been seen by many critics and viewers as a very strong allegory of suffocating life in Eastern Europe which is true, but I also see it as an allegory of a struggle every talented and deeply feeling artist goes through in the search for beauty and meaning regardless the political system or the country they live. From the darkness of non-existence to the light of knowledge to the unbearable darkness of being - that's the road Svankmajer takes us and as usual, his vision is not a cheerful or optimistic one.

"Manly games aka Virile Games", 1988, color, 12 mins or I'd call it the "Soccer movie to end all soccer movies". "Manly games" is a combination of live action, very creative claymation, and a sport documentary. It stars when thousands of men of different ages and social standing arrive to the stadium to watch a soccer game. Then we see a man who is going to enjoy the game watching it on TV in his apartment where the fridge in the kitchen is filled with beer bottles. When the game begins, we realize that the rules of the game have been changed: the points seem to come from the team who kill more of the other team's players. The funniest and most shocking scenes demonstrate the amazing skills and imagination with which the players of one team dispose or their opponents. I've always thought that there is no creature in the world that has developed the ability in torturing, mutilating, and murdering its own species with such creativity and delight as humans do and Svankmajer proved me right.

And finally, the most astounding film of all, my favorite The Triumph of Death - Jan Svankmajer's "The Ossuary"(1970)

"The Ossuary" is the most stunning, disturbing, masterful and creative short film even for Svankmajer. I usually would stay away from the words THE MOST but "The Ossuary" deserves the epithet for the unique subject matter which is a voyage inside the Sedlec Ossuary, a small chapel located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic with an actual tour-guide (or rather a substitute for a tour guide) who tells the story of the Ossuary to the group of middle school students. The ossuary contains approximately 40,000 human skeletons which have been artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel. During the Black Death in the mid 14th century, and after the Hussite Wars in the early 15th century many thousands of people were buried there.

In 1870, Frantisek Rint, a woodcarver, was employed by the Schwarzenberg family to arrange the bones of 40,000 people or so artistically and orderly. What he had created with the help of his wife and two children is the most disturbing, macabre, ominous and unsettling works of art I've ever seen: four enormous bell-shaped mounds occupy the corners of the chapel. A huge chandelier of bones, which contains at least one of every bone in the human body, hangs from the center of the nave with garlands of skulls draping the vaults. The guide proudly informed the audience that the USA government had offered the Czechoslovakia government $100, 000 for chandelier but the offer was declined. The signature of Master Rint and the year 1870 carved in bone can be seen on he wall near the entrance.

In 1970, the centenary of Rint's contributions, Jan ?vankmajer was commissioned to make a "cultural documentary" about the ossuary. The result was a 10 minute long nightmare of the images that could be compared to the darkest and most pessimistic works in the history of Art. Bosch's "Inferno" looks like a sitcom next to the quiet and silence horrors of the artistically and lovingly arranged human bones and sculls that would never for a second let a mesmerized viewer forget about decay and death. Svankmajer did not have to create any hellish nightmarish images or visions - all he had to do - to let his camera go wild in capturing the never stopping and never ending Dance of Death.

Absolutely fascinating and unforgettable.

A little preview of the contents.
Lacrimatorium | Alaska USA | 08/31/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Here is the material from the Kimstim/Kino site. Since Amazon seems to know nothing about it.


Since his first film in 1964, Jan Svankmajer (LITTLE OTIK, LUNACY) has made some of the most memorable and unique movies ever made. Animator, poet, sculptor, designer and self-proclaimed "militant Surrealist," his films present a delirious combination of puppets, humans, stop-motion animation and live action. Svankmajer's films conjure up a dreamlike universe that is at once dark, macabre, witty and perversely visceral. Or, as the great director Milos Forman once offered, "Disney + Buñuel = Svankmajer."

KIMSTIM is proud to present this second astounding collection of remarkable short works from an artist who has mesmerized audiences the world over and has inspired filmmakers from the Brothers Quay to Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam.

"Unless we again begin to tell fairy tales and ghost stories before going to sleep and recounting our dreams upon waking, nothing more is to be expected of our Western civilization." - Jan Svankmajer


1964/color/11:30 mins
1970/color/31 mins
1968, B&W, 19 mins
1967, color, 9 mins
1965, black & white, 9:30 mins
1970, black & white, 10 mins
1973-79, color, 17 mins
1989, color, 8 mins
1988, color, 12 mins


Well it all looks great!! I have Darkness / Light / Darkness and the Last Trick on VHS collections they are excellent. Manly Games is Probably the funniest Svankmajer film made and a great poke at soccer mania in Europa. The Ossuary is a very important film in itself. The rest look to be fascinating and inspirational as usual.

The only real shame here is that now only lonely Jabberwocky still languishes in VHS jail. Let's hope this gets a place of honor somewhere ... soon.

And Czech out the Jiri Barta collection released the same day as this."