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Jiri Barta: Labyrinth of Darkness
Jiri Barta Labyrinth of Darkness
Actors: Frantisek Husák, Zdenek Martínek, Ivan Vojtek, Oldrich Kaiser, Jirí Lábus
Director: Jirí Barta
Genres: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense, Animation
NR     2006     2hr 27min

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


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Movie Details

Actors: Frantisek Husák, Zdenek Martínek, Ivan Vojtek, Oldrich Kaiser, Jirí Lábus
Director: Jirí Barta
Creators: Ivan Vít, Jan Malír, Vladimír Malík, Zdenek Pospísil, Jirí Barta, Helena Lebdusková, Kamil Pixa, Václav Mergl
Genres: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense, Animation
Sub-Genres: Drama, Horror, Animation, Mystery & Suspense, Animation
Studio: Kimstim
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 09/12/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 2hr 27min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 9
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

INFORMATION NOW! (Review to follow)
Lacrimatorium | Alaska USA | 08/31/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Since Amazon doesn't seem to know what it's got this is straight from the horses mouth... Review after release

Includes the legendary animated film The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Revered as one of the world's most significant figures in animation, Czech filmmaker Jiri Barta has made a career fashioning stunningly gothic worlds of horror and fantasy that are infused with sublime humor and intense moral examinations. Mixing the aesthetic traditions of such artists as Gaudi, Kafka, Poe, Fritz Lang, The Brothers Quay and Jan Svankmajer, Barta's films are wondrous creations that go far beyond mere children's tales.

His early paper cut-out extravaganzas-Disc Jockey (1980) and The Design (1981)-give way to the object ballet of A Ballad about Green Wood (1983), in which logs celebrate the eternal renaissance of spring. Old mannequins spend their cracked and broken lives In the Club of the Laid Off (1989), and myriad styles of handwear spring to life as a brief history of international cinema in the award-winning The Vanished World of Gloves (1982). Barta's international reputation was cemented with The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1985), a very un-Disney adaptation of the classic German fairytale in which carved wooden puppets in a gothic cubist town are plagued by live rats. Considered one of the greatest works of puppet animation, it recalls the dark medieval epics of Ingmar Bergman. His only live action film, The Last Theft (1987), is a jewel thief/vampire flick shot in the style of 1970s European exploitation cinema.

Working mostly from the prestigious animation studio founded by the legendary Jiri Trnka, Barta's works have been criminally overlooked in the U.S. Kimstim is proud to present all eight of Jiri Barta's films, available for the first time together on one DVD.

* A Ballad About Green Wood
11 minutes, color, 1983
* The Club of the Laid Off
25 minutes, color, 1989
* The Design
6 minutes, color, , 1981
* Disc Jockey
10 minutes, color, 1980
* The Last Theft
* 21 minutes, color, 1987
* The Pied Piper of Hamelin
55 minutes, color, 1985
* Riddles For a Candy
8 minutes, color, 1978
* The Vanished World of Gloves
16 minutes, color, 1982

Critical Acclaim

"Extraordinary... Barta creates a gothic never-was world caught somewhere between Gaudí and Kafka, Caligari and Svankmajer."- TIME OUT"
Some of the best stop animation EVER
wiredweird | Earth, or somewhere nearby | 03/30/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"What it is that makes Czech animators so brilliant? There was Jiri Trnka, back in the day, Jan Svankmajer redefining the medium, and now Jiri Barta. This collection simply must be on the shelves of anyone who truly enjoys stop animation.

The eight pieces presented range from six minutes to 55. All of them are clever and well done, even if 'The Last Theft' and 'Disc Jockey' aren't really stop animation. The two longest pieces deserve the most attention, however. I had seen 'The Club of the Laid Off' before. It presents a crumbling warehouse where unwanted mannikins are sent to be forgotten, but take lives of their own. The forced cheer painted onto their immobile faces amid decay, their own included, cast a creepy spell over the whole twenty-five minutes, as did their deliberate and inaccurate humanity - they were, after all, created to display human clothes. Even their anatomically-innacurate nudity reinforced their pathetic poverty. Their ineffectual tries at normalcy just displayed a poverty of soul, too, opening the question of which creations deserve to have souls.

The best by far was the "Pied Piper of Hamelin." At nearly an hour, this sustained effort in stop-animation is an achievement in sheer endurance if nothing else - at 25 or 30 hand-crafted frames per second, an hour is a long time. But it offers more than that. The Pied Piper plot looms darker than any other I've seen. Without being "adult" in any way, this is certainly not one for the kiddies. But, even if the plotting and characterization didn't meet the highest standards already, the crafting of puppets and sets would still make this one of the best on record. The puppets might look equally at home as gargoyles on a medieval cathedral, as demons from a seventeenth century woodcut, or as wood-carving in a tradition of craftmanship that still exists in modern Germany. If anything, the sets surpass the puppets in evoking a European city of the 1600s, and still carry a rubbery surreality that positions this town firmly in dreamland. I don't know what's usually considered the best in stop animation, but if it's not this, then someone had better have very good evidence to back up their claim.

-- wiredweird"
Excellent Eastern European Stop-Motion Animation!!!
Wesley Bohannon | Austin, TX USA | 03/11/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I purchased this specifically for the Pied Piper and was amazed that every film was solid."
Amazon Recommends II: Jiri Barta -- Labyrinth of Darkness
PolarisDiB | Southwest, USA | 11/08/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Hello again from this imaginary aisle of the abstract retail market.

Well it's easy to see why recommended this to me, considering the above-average amount of short film collections I own and my own interests in animation. I remember seeing this Jiri Barta collection at work once and was really curious about it, and it was nice to have the incentive to get around to watching it. I have to admit a lack of previous knowledge around this otherwise cult-followed, Svankmajer compatriot Czech animator, but it's been a wonderful adventure learning about him.

While Barta gets a lot of comparison to Svankmajer and the Brothers Quay (as well as Jiri Trnka, whom I've not yet gotten the opportunity to research), his movies are a lot looser, playful, and modernistic, sometimes to a fault. The collection of films on this set actually range through quite a lot of different moods and styles while always maintaining a clear sense of wit. At worst, some of the pieces can seem like Barta lost track of what he was starting and decided to just change it all -- rather difficult to do in animation when it takes so much time -- and at best it's perversely unpredictable fun.

I can see why "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" is his most famous work, as it fully realizes the very nature of fairy tale telling into graphic form, so that even in its most unique moments it seems direly, perversely familiar. It was very enjoyable and mesmerizing. My other favorite is the live-action "The Last Theft", mostly because it hits its gothic notes right on queue for some fun-loving morbid hilarity. The shifting tinting on the film is likewise mesmerizing, though what really scores that short points is the way in which even when things go right for the character, it all feels so perversely wrong.

The rest of the shorts are all really good, though sometimes I simply didn't care for them. "A Ballad about Green Wood" seemed almost directionless (it pulls together at the end); "Disc Jockey", though interesting in its primary shapes scheme, seemed too commercial--a real joke considering it and other shorts make a lot of fun of commercialism. Though what is a real surprise in these shorts, considering that when most people think "Czech animation" they think of fever dreams and mythic things, is just how willing Barta is to throw in 80s pop culture into the mix. Thus you get an interesting post-modern mix of the dream-scape sensibilities of that stop-motion movement mixed with a real tongue-in-cheek parody of modern times. I can't say I dislike it because I was really unprepared for it, but in a way that's wonderful because it means he stands out and also helps prove that even in a supposed "sub-genre" of independent stop-motion animation can be amazingly different styles and approaches (something that often gets overlooked in the essentializing of "independent" to mean "with the same anti-Hollywood concerns", which mostly isn't factual at all).

I don't know about the title of the DVD "Labyrinth of Darkness". Barta certainly has dark humor, and the shorts are a labyrinth in the sense that they branch off in different directions, but a "Labyrinth of Darkness" sort of puts across a much more brooding tone and mental fragmentation that these shorts aren't really concerned with. People looking for the disturbing surreality of Jan Svankmajer or the feverish Freudian landscape of the Brothers Quay might be a little disappointed by some of the offerings here; on the other hand, the works as a whole are a fresh twist on the interplay of movement, sound, and form, so I severely doubt anybody familiar with those other artists will be really turned off.