Title: Little Otik
Release Date: January 25, 2000
Country: Czech Republic
Directed By: Jan Svankmajer
As with all of my favorite foreign films, I just couldn’t predict any of it coming. One minute the crazy lady is feeding a piece of root varnished into a shape of a child, and a few scenes later the root is eating the mail man! Surprisingly graphic, Little Otik is oddly sensual–but not in a sexy way. The camera movements and shots, the transitions, and most of all the sound accompanying the motions evoke the feeling of uneasiness that I cannot simply describe.
It may be easy to create something original by making a film about an existing folklore that isn’t well known, but organic execution is what separates the masters from the amateurs. Svankmajer could have chosen to use a mechanical doll or even computer graphics to make the stump-baby LOOK realistic. However, by using the method of stop-motion-animation mixed with live action, the little stump-baby-people-eater FELT alive.
If you’re not used to surrealist films, it is harder to suspend disbelief as surreal films tend to mix everyday events with character inner monologues. If you find yourself saying “wait…what?…I don’t get it?!” DO NOT GIVE UP!!! Re-think about why a baby-less father would open up a watermelon and finds a baby inside–it’s actually genius storytelling! It would be lazy if instead the father says “uhg…I’m so bumbed my wife and I can’t have children, I’m stressed and I can’t stop thinking about babies”–especially if it was obvious that no one is around to listen.
Sadly, a lot of films take the easy way out and use too much dialogue to explain everything. It’s truly refreshing when actions speak louder than words. And it’s even better (in my opinion) when it takes you a while to realize what’s going on.
Little Otik is a classic in MY book! It’s NOT The Birth of a Nation (1915) or Citizen Kane (1941) kind of classic, but rather it’s-so-totally-cool-that-Jan Svankmajer-mixed-live-action-with-stop-motion kinda classic.