(1970) (0:11:00)

Click here for a 3.1 meg quicktime

This fascinating black and white non-fiction film is one of Jan's best,
even though it contains very little animation.

The film opens with this information:

"Prince Scwarzenburg had an ossuary made at the All Saint's Church, in Sedlec near Kutna Hora. It was finished in 10 years, in 1870, by woodcarver Frantisek Rindt with wife and 2 children. Most of the bones date back to 1378, when the Black Plague hit Kutna Hora. It is estimated that Rindt used 50-70 thousand human skeletons."

An ossuary, of course, is a structure built of human bones. Although this is unheard of in the United States, it is not uncommon in Europe. It usually has a religious significance, and usually relates to the plague or some other huge era of death.

The film travels to the ossuary in question, first showing use a snail slowly tracking over a human skull... the camera then enters the ossuary and flows through it, pointing out various incredible structures and ornaments built of bones.

The whole time we are treated to a Czech (?) woman's singing of the extremely relevant "How to make the likeness of a bird", the famous poem by Jacques Prevert:

"How to make the likeness of a bird...
how to make a likeness
First draw a cage
with an open door
Then draw
then draw...

Something beautiful,
something simple,
something fitting for a bird.
Then walk through the garden,
or hide behind a tree in the wood
without a word...
without a word...
without a word...

Sometimes the bird comes soon
but it can take its time.
It can take years to decide
to venture forth.
So wait...
wait for years, of need be.

But the waiting is not in relation
to how the picture worked out.
When the bird comes,
if it comes...
if it comes...
if it comes...
if it comes be very quiet.

Wait for it to enter the cage.
Just keep very quiet.
Just keep very quiet.

When it's inside
slowly shut the door with the paint brush
and then...
and then...

Rub the cage out carefully
without touching the bird's feathers.
In your tree find the prettiest branch
for the bird...

Paint in the leaves, the wind,
insects buzzing in the summer heat,
and then wait... for the bird to sing.

If not, it is a bad omen.
It means the painting is bad.

But if it sings...
But if it sings...
that is a good omen.

And that means you can sign the painting.
So just take your pen,
sign your name in the corner of the painting."

A reader named Frisco Arenas has visited Sedlec and made a fascinating web site devoted to it with excellent pictures which he took, tourist brochures, etc. By all means, give it a look!

Check out the Svankmajer pages that I have completed; these include stills and many quicktime movies:

This page was created 7/14/96.
All content compiled/edited by Tim Fitzpatrick, except where noted.