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Little Otik (Otesanek)
Little Otik
Actors: Veronika Zilková, Jan Hartl, Jaroslava Kretschmerová, Pavel Nový, Kristina Adamcová
Director: Jan Svankmajer
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense, Animation
UR     2003     2hr 6min

Surrealist master Jan Svankmajer (FAUST, ALICE) brings a famous Czech legend eerily to life in the darkly hilarious cautionary tale of LITTLE OTIK. An ordinary couple, Karel and Bozena, are unable to conceive a child. When...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Veronika Zilková, Jan Hartl, Jaroslava Kretschmerová, Pavel Nový, Kristina Adamcová
Director: Jan Svankmajer
Creators: Jan Svankmajer, Erna Kmínková, Jaromír Kallista, Jirí Vanek, Keith Griffiths, Karel Jaromír Erben
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense, Animation
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Animation, Drama, Animation, Mystery & Suspense, Animation
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 01/21/2003
Original Release Date: 01/01/2000
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2000
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 2hr 6min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 19
Edition: Special Edition
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Czech
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Mother love.
darragh o'donoghue | 03/20/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"'Little Otik' tells its story from two female perspectives. The first is that of a young wife who, infertile like her husband, is depressed because she is childless. Buying a rural allotment to take their minds off their plight, the husband, in a moment of apocalyptic stupidity, digs up an old root and jokingly carves it into the shape of a baby. The mother, far from laughing, transfers all her pent-up maternal feelings onto the stump, even going so far as faking a pregnancy for the neighbours, wearing specially sized cushions each month. Mrs Horakova is an adult who regresses into childhood, who replaces the intolerableness of reality with fantasy and play, make-believing motherhood just as a child plays with its dolls.The other primary viewpoint in the film belongs to Alzbetha, whose family lives facing the Horaks in a glum Prague tenement. Her development is in the opposite direction, from child to adult. A sturdy eleven-year-old, she is becoming a sexual creature, regularly ogled by the paedophile janitor, hiding sex-education books in a volume of fairy tales, dodging the blows of a comically brutal dad who freaks out every time his little girl declaims something 'adult'. Where Mrs. Horakova tries to hide reality, Alzbetha attempts to discover knowledge - she is a detective figure reading the clues of weirdness and death being left by her neighbours. It is almost as if knowledge is too much for women to bear, though, because discovery causes her moment of regress, and she replaces Mrs. Horakova as the wood's mother, resorting to increasingly desperate tactics to feed it. Because by this atage Otik has become an enormous, insatiable child, feeding on humans to sustain itself. Facing each other like mirror reflections, these two households offer bizarre distortions on the idea of the family unit. 'Little Otik' is filmed with an austere but grotesque realism, with a shabby, small-minded Czech milieu not so different from the dank settings of Svankmajer's Communist-era films. Huge close-ups focus in on faces expresing (usually gross) appetite, whether for food, drink, sex, reassurance, family, knowledge or love. Equal prominence is given to things, especially food, whose sticky, lumpy liquidity becomes a uteral/infant displacement in a series of provocative visual puns. There are fantasies at the beginning of the film - such as when Mr. Horak sees babies everywhere, being sold like fish at a street market, or enwombed in a watermelon - but they are clearly signalled as such, as unreal as the violently unsubtle advertising that Alzbetha's couch potato father watches, usually for products that require no human input. Svankmajer's trademark puppetry is kept to a minimum, and, except in one case, is used to express character subjectivity (the girl eyeing the bulging trousers of the paedophile; her father witnessing live nails in his soup).That one exception is little Otik himself, who is given life by the sheer force of his mother's desire, and is sustained by the collusion of the little girl. He is created by the father, and the film adds Frankenstein/Golem/Genesis resonances to its Kafka and fairy tale structure - but it is lifeless until the mother succours it. It is the two women who make it real, who displace drab and unjust reality with an all-consuming, murderous fantasy (it is significant that 'truth' is uncovered by reference to a folk tale). Fertility distorted devours all that surrounds it. The void of denial is filled by a monster who, through appetite, literally creates absence (appropriately, his victims represent authority, bureaucratic, generational and filial). I'm sure this is an allegory of some sort for modern Czech consumerism - as in Haneke's 'The Seventh Continent', a family unit is driven to ruthless besiege isself - but the relentless allusions to the director's previous film, the dark fairy tale mirror-worlds of 'Alice' and 'Down In The Cellar' expecially, suggest that the director is once more interested in burrowing the unexplored recesses of the mind, body and imagination. The result is his most uncomfortable and funny film in years."
Original, witty and horrific
snalen | UK | 11/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

""Once upon a time there lived a woodcutter and his wife who longed for a little baby..." That's how so many fairytales start and in this extraordinary, disturbing and witty film the fairytale is brought to life not in some suitably fairy-tale setting (as was the case in e.g. Cocteau's "La Belle et La Bete" or Jordan's "Company of Wolves") but in a dingy block of urban flats in central Europe. Here we find the childless, no longer so young, Bozena and Karel who are both hopelessly infertile and wholly in despair. But Karel digs up an old tree stump which looks a bit like a baby, cuts it up a bit to make the resemblance closer and gives it to his wife as a rather sick joke. Immediately, to his horror, she sets about loving it. She even sets up an elaborate fake pregnancy for herself so she can present it in public as her baby - though she soon learns that, given its appearance, she can't very easily do any such thing. Then after she has "given birth", Karel returns home to find the tree stump, named Otik, has somehow become alive and is hungrily suckling at his wife's breast. He wants to cut it to pieces with an axe but she desperately prevents him and they continue to feed it. It grows rapidly bigger and bigger and hungrier and hungrier. In a wonderfully horrible scene it attacks Bozena by grabbing her hair in its teeth. Then it eats their cat. Then it eats the postman. A social worker is sent round and asks to see the baby. "Don't be afraid, I'm not going to eat him", she says. Indeed, au contraire...The dramatic centre of the film is not any of the characters so far mentioned so much as it is Alzbetka, the little girl next door, beautifully played by Kristina Adamcova. She has a precociously strong interest in everything to do with reproduction and motherhood and assiduously reads books on sex and obstetrics hidden inside the covers of fairy tale collections to evade the notice of her stuffy and anxious father. No one is quite as interested as Alzbetka in the parental lives of Karel and Bozena and soon she is the only person really alive to what is happening next door. But rather than being afraid of the monster she now has for a neighbour her attitude to it becomes maternal and protective...If you like monster movies and fancy checking out something a bit different this is a good place to come. Indeed it is so enormously different that it is worth checking out if you ordinarily hate monster movies but are open to anything remarkable and imaginative. It's an excellent movie, though perhaps a little bit too long for so simple a tale and the end is a little slow coming. But the first half in particular, charting the surreal nightmare of Bozena's growing madness and then the horror of the suddenly living and feeding Otik is marvellous. Svankmajer doesn't have a monster-sized Hollywood special effects budget to create Otik but he does have a distinguished history as an animator and uses animation techniques to make something magnificantly creepy and horrible. Sometimes one is reminded of the hideous infant from Lynch's "Eraserhead" but really Svankmajer's Otik is like nothing else, a hideous confusion of roots and teeth. It might give you nightmares."
Family Tree, Redefined
Solo Goodspeed | Granada Hills, CA United States | 04/27/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"A Czech folk tale is given a psychological and socially satirical slant in this twisted and highly humorous piece of Euro-Cinema. Childless couple Karel and Bozena are given a shot at parenthood when hubby Karel presents his despondent wife with a (sort of) human-shaped tree root, in an attempt to amuse her. He regrets the act almost immediately when she snatches the gift, dresses it up, and begins to treat it like a real infant. In the time that follows, she stages an elaborate fake pregnancy, culminating in a ritualized "birth", and the little one is given the name Otik. To his horror, Bozena's husband arrives one evening to find her nursing the child, which has actually come to life. And it is very, insatiably hungry. A neighbor's daughter, inquisitive Alzbekta, knows something is up from the couple's strange behavior, and from the way visitors begin to mysteriously disappear. Amongst the books on human development and sexuality she peruses, she finds in a book of Fairy Tales the fable of Otesanek, a hungry tree monster, and ends up being the only character in the developing, horrific scenario who has a clue what is going on, as well as what is to ensue. This movie has been compared to The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby and Eraserhead; I would have to throw in nods to It's Alive, Little Shop of Horrors ('61) and maybe Delicatessen. Despite the overly broad humor, somewhat primitive, jerky animation style and a rather unsatisfying ending, Little Otik delivers some good sick fun in this sidewise view of parenting and consumerism. One may never look at food quite the same way again."
Horror for adults.
Philippe Ranger | Montreal, Can. | 03/17/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Little Otik is a made-for-TV film constructed in the way of the old, precious Czech films of 30 years ago. It sets a folktale (of which we are given the essential of the text) in the contemporary urban Czech Republic. A lot of the interest of the story is in the resultant recasting.This only makes the film all the more faithful to the mythical force of the original tale, which is part-Little Red Riding Hood, part-Alien, but cuts much closer to the bone than either LRRH or Alien. Do take that as a warning: Little Otik is a horror story, and one that makes Alien (any installment) look like a ride in an amusement park. Otik himself is also a more horrible creation than any version of the Aliens, and achieved with 1% of the budget for special effects.One example of the more-than-successful recasting for a modern urban context -- In the original tale the monster is male but all the *active* participants are women. When the tale is turned into a 2-hour contemporary film, this aspect becomes much enriched. The transgressing mother that is at the origin of the tale becomes one instance of urban motherhood, linked into the usual variety of real, incipient or wishful mothers. And the underlying impulsions are given full screen time, with few words or none.

Because the film has a true, deep, classical horror as its backbone, it can get down to the business of delivering it without masses of special effects, without surprise cuts, without terrifying sounds, without ominous hints. And most of all without extraneous business. This is why it is more than worth watching. Perhaps, though, the TV destination pushed the author into somewhat too much restraint. You do want a movie not just to recount something but to show it, and we are only shown the necessary minimum. This is the opposite excess to Alien's and, though far less destructive than scary-movie tactics are in Alien, it still leaves you with the feeling of having missed something.The folktale text we are given has the same all's-well-that-ends-well final fixup that many versions of Little Red Riding Hood have (when the hunter comes in). To the movie's credit, it chooses to end precisely at that moment, with a black screen. We can believe in the Happy End or take up the myth in full. (This is close to the Sphynx myth, and the Sphynx is eternal.) In either case, up to that point, we have been plunged in the mind-world of eternal horror tales. ..."