Shorts Program 3: Mature Mastery

Shorts program, running time 84 min.

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In the 1960s, at the height of his artistic powers, Trnka turned to increasingly dark, surreal, satirical, and politically defiant subject matter. The result was a string of visually innovative, modernist masterpieces that encompass dystopian science fiction, religious parody, and, in his final crowning achievement, an impassioned protest against state censorship.

Passion (Vášeň)
Jiří Trnka, Czechoslovakia, 1962, 9 min., no dialogue
A boy’s need for speed causes problems throughout his life in this triumph of modernist design, which blends puppet, stop-motion, collage, and cut-out animation with gothic humor and Pop Art-like visual design.

Cybernetic Grandma (Kybernetická babička)
Jiří Trnka, Czechoslovakia, 1962, 28 min., Czech w/ English subtitles
Trnka took a turn into Space Age sci-fi surrealism with this dark, dystopian satire on automatization in which a child traverses a forbidding technological wasteland to meet (surprise!) her uncanny new robotic grandmother.

Archangel Gabriel and Mistress Goose (Archanděl Gabriel a paní Husa)
Jiří Trnka, Czechoslovakia, 1964, 29 min., no dialogue
Adapted from a story in Boccaccio’s Decameron, this irreverent, medieval-set lampoon of religious hypocrisy mixes Christian iconography with bawdy black humor to tell the tale of a lusty Venetian monk who assumes the guise of the angel Gabriel to seduce a married woman.

The Hand (Ruka)
Jiří Trnka, Czechoslovakia, 1965, 18 min., no dialogue
Trnka’s last work is a powerful, deeply personal allegory about the plight of the artist toiling under the restrictions of a totalitarian government. The story of a simple sculptor menaced by a giant, disembodied hand that forces him to bend to its will was banned by the Communist censors for two decades—but has since taken its place as an acknowledged masterpiece of animation.

The touring retrospective THE PUPPET MASTER: THE COMPLETE JIŘÍ TRNKA is produced by Comeback Company, originated at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Curated by Irena Kovarova. Films provided by the Czech National Film Archive. Image Courtesy of Czech National Film Archive.