Jiri Trnka -- Walt Disney Of The East!
The Artist from The Hand. © Kratky Film Praha.
Watch a clip from The Hand and witness why Trnka is the master. © Rembrandt Films. All Rights Reserved.
The Hand A collection of Trnka's world famous puppet films is available
in a 3-tape collection at the AWN
Store. Edgar Dutka is a scriptwriter, animation historian and professor
at The Academy of Performing Arts in Prague.
The last of Trnka's films, The Hand, was an unexpected and surprising break in his work thus far. It was something completely new in content and form. The Handis a merciless political allegory, which strictly follows story outline without developing lyrical details as usual; it had a strong dramatic arc with deep catharsisin the end. Trnka had used a combination of his typical funny-foolish but undefeated, ordinary man puppet as the protagonist and a live-action human hand (naked or in gloves) as the despotic antagonist. When The Handwas released it was officially declared as Trnka's criticism of the Cult of Personality (Stalin), but for all people, it was an alarming allegory of human existence in a totalitarian society. The film had the strong up-to-date story about the Artist and the omnipresent Hand, which only allowed the Artist to make sculptures of the Hand and nothing else. The Artist was sent to a prison for his disobedience and pressed to hew a huge sculpture of the Hand. When the omnipresent Hand caused the Artist's death, the same Hand organizes the artist's State funeral with all artists honoured. Trnka, for the first time, openly expressed his opinion about his own inhuman totalitarian society. The Handwas one of the first films that helped to open the short Prague's Spring. It is curious that Trnka predicted his own fate in it. When Jiri Trnka died in November 1969 (at only 57 years of age), he had a State funeral with honours. Only four months later, The Handwas banned; all copies were confiscated by the secret police, put in a safe and the film was forbidden for screening for next twenty years. A seventeen minute long puppet film intimidated the unlimited power of the Totalitarian State. In the 1970s and 80s, we already could find many such examples: films by Jan Svankmajer at the time. The importance of gifted and intelligent animation for an adult audience will never fade. I am sure if Trnka's film The Handwas seen by people in any totalitarian country today, it would help them to believe, as it helped us to believe: We shall overcome! And we did.
A collection of Trnka's world famous puppet films is available in a 3-tape collection at the AWN Store.
Edgar Dutka is a scriptwriter, animation historian and professor at The Academy of Performing Arts in Prague.