WEEKLY APPRECIATION || SURREALISM

Hello Netizens,

On Friday, I got the chance to watch two short films, and they were 'Down The Cellar' and 'Food' by  Jan Švankmajer - which introduced me to this extraordinary artist. 

I have always been interested in surrealism - since I saw 'The persistence of Time' as a child. Surrealist artworks never failed to make me feel uncomfortable and I would stare at them for a while to grasp the meaning behind them.



Down the cellar wasn't an exception. The film shows a little girl's journey as she travels down the cellar to bring some potatoes and all the unfortunate situations she has gotten into.

The film focuses on triggering your senses, the sounds seemed heightened and you can almost feel what the characters touch. There is no background music to distract you, and the sound of footsteps or the water as the woman squeezes the piece of fabric are strong and almost too real.




The composition of the frames didn't reveal everything, and they always limited our perspective. Moreover, they managed to grab the viewers into the setting and experience the story from the perspective of the characters rather than experiencing them as an outsider.  

Through out the movie we see unrealistic things happen, such as; moving shoes that can eat and act like dogs, a woman using dirt as flour, a man sleeping in a bed of coal... etcetera. The whole setting of the story is irrational and dream structured - which is an element of surrealism (anti-rationalism). 

The disappearance of the potatoes as she put them in her basket and then her trying to do that again and again, feels like something you would experience in a dream - Usually people would try to do tasks in their dream, but never be able to finish them. Which in the end, the little girl fails to deliver a basket full of potatoes. 


The short film 'Food' also delivers surrealism through out the three meals. Every meal in the movie is different and it is also eaten differently. A common theme between the three meals is copying or repetition.

This short film also focuses on heightening our senses while watching. The sounds in the film are exaggerated, which makes them feel at some instances too real although they aren't realistic. Sounds are very important or prominent in Jan Švankmajer's works, and he uses it to create a surrealistic atmosphere during the whole film.  

In the background you could hear the sound of wind, However, midway through Lunch it was replaced with music. The wind adds a senses of suspense and mystery and it was replaced with music when the viewer would have figured out the pattern by then, it also makes it a little comical. 

I believe 'Food' is a political commentary, or an anti-capitalist film. The first meal, illustrates how we are easy to follow instruction given to us and we would use people as long as it benefited us. It also shines a light on the fake sense of choice we believe we have everyday.

From 'Food' , Breakfast

The second meal was a commentary about the rich and the poor. The poor or middle classed people would usually try to live the lives of the rich and copy them even if they did ridiculous things. In the end, The rich tricks the poor to use them - or in this instance to eat them. 

From 'Food', Lunch 

The final meal, Dinner, and the shortest meal is set in a high end restaurant. It shows different people eating their body parts, which they depend on. We see the runner preparing his leg to eat, as a metaphor that our work becomes everything we are and it is the only identity we end up being. 

From 'Food', Dinner
The runner's leg becomes everything he is. 


I enjoyed watching these short films, and I more interested in surrealism than ever. Although the movement has ended due to World War II, the elements of surrealism are still prevalent in our culture and entertainment industry till this very day. 




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