Lunacy (2006)

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Review #253 of 365
Film: Lunacy (2006) [NR] 121 minutes
Czech Title: Sílení
WIP™ Scale: $12.50
Where Viewed: Regency Tamarac Square, Denver, CO
When 1st Seen: 21 September 2006
Time: 8:15 p.m.

Directed by: Jan Svankmajer
Written by: Jan Svankmajer based on short stories by Edgar Allen Poe and Marquis de Sade
Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Pavel Liska (Stestí) • Jan Triska (Apt Pupil) • Anna Geislerová (Shut Up and Shoot Me) • Jaroslav Dusek (Doblba!) • Martin Huba ( Stestí)

Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word or less review of this film]
Czech director Jan Svankmajer began his career with short films back in the 1960s. His first feature film was an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland called Neco z Alenky which was released circa 1988. His newest film combines his ideas used in his 1984, stop motion, animated short film Meat Love, with short stories by Edgar Allen Poe, "The Premature Burial" and "The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether" and Marquis de Sade, if you can imagine that. Meat Love was about two pieces of steak that fall in love—you've got to see it to believe it. Poe's stories provide the background and shell for this story which concerns a young man named Jean Berlot (Pavel Liska) who is on a journey returning home from his mother's funeral when, after a bad, recurring nightmare about being taken to an insane asylum by men in white coats results in him destroying the room, he is 'rescued' by a suspicious and ill-tempered Marquis (Jan Triska) who immediately befriends him, pays for his damages and becomes his patron of sorts taking him home to live in his mansion. Once there, he spies on the Marquis and catches him holding a bizarre sadomasochist ritual in a room designed to look like a church. The Marquis, dressed as a high priest of the Catholic religion, pounds nails into a statue of Jesus begging God to appear and punish him for his sins. Present are three other men, three women, and one additional young woman chained to a bed. The party engages in rituals and intercourse involving cake and red paint made to look like blood. The young women attempts to escape and is quickly apprehended, but not until after she notices Jean and he falls love-at-first-sight in love with her. Determined to leave the company of the Marquis after this incident, Jean announces that he's departing the next morning during breakfast at which time the Marquis chokes to death on a banana. Jean witnesses his expiration, and is made to follow the instructions of his servant in helping to bury him in the family crypt. What he does not know, is that the Marquis is not really dead, and that this burial ceremony is really part of the Marquis's therapy to overcome his fears of being buried alive as he believe his mother was. His therapy is being conducted by Dr. Murlloppe (Jaroslav Dusek) at the local mental institution. The Marquis takes Jean there in the hopes that now Jean will seek to be committed to get over his obvious mental problems. Once there, his is confronted by the same young woman with whom he fell instantly in love, whom the Marquis and the Dr. claim is the Dr.'s daughter, Charlotte (Anna Geislerová). Jean agrees to be committed only after Charlotte slips him a note begging him to help her escape. Later he learns from her that Dr. Murlloppe is not the rightful person in charge of the Asylum. Instead, he and the Marquis, took over the Asylum and locked up the real people in charge in the basement dungeon after tarring and feathering them. The two make plans to free the imprisoned Dr. Coulmiere (Martin Huba) and put order back into the Asylum. Dr. Murlloppe's hypotheses on curing mental illness has been a progressive one in which the inmates are allowed to be free to act out. So, the institution is filled with people having pillow fights, painting a nude woman, sliding down the stairs on a sled and so on.

"Svankmajer has blurred lines between sanity and insanity creating a surreal experience."
It wouldn't be good form to reveal more of the plot, however, it is important to make sense of this to indicate that Dr. Coulmiere's system of treatment involves 13 steps to weaken and punish the body so the mind can heal. He believes that a sick mind is due a body that is way out of control. Likewise, he believes that when the mind is out of control, the body becomes ill. The inmates live in mortal fear of him whereas they love Dr. Murlloppe. Also, I've neglected to mention, that in between scenes, Svankmajer has inserted scenes of his stop motion, animated meat. The most common items used are sheep tongues which crawl, lick, and eventually even have intercourse with each other. There are sheep eyes and brains that move about, some end up back in a sheep skull, others eventually end up in the meat grinder where they are eaten by chickens. The meat sequences often reflect the emotional state of the previous scene. Overall, they are often incredibly disturbing sequences certain to induce revulsion in some viewers. The exact purpose of these scenes is not clear. They could be in the mind of Jean Berlot. They could be there to help further the impact of Jean's downward spiral away from sanity on the audience. It also struck me to wonder what it takes for a mind to be able to conjure up the ideas for this type of thing. The film flirts back and forth with sanity and insanity. It is amazing how thin the line between them becomes and how much is in the eye of the beholder as well as the beholden.

Svankmajer has blurred all these with this film creating a very persuasive and surreal experience. Pavel Lilska does a remarkable job with his character endowing him with a timid sense of his own sanity with the daring necessary to take on the establishment to overcome his insanity. Jan Triska and Martin Huba also bring incredible depth to their characters. The former balances a fiendish sense of self-righteousness with a Johnny Knoxville-style prankster. The later taps into the undercurrent which likely motivated the likes of the real Josef Mengele in order to bring his character to life. All three deliver powerful performances. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is its capacity to evoke emotions in viewers and cause the questioning of long-held beliefs regarding mental stability and sanity. The net result is a very frightening film that pushes a number of psychological buttons, and ends on a very disturbing note.

Related Products from
Other Projects Featuring Lunacy (2006) Cast Members
Pavel LiskaJan TriskaAnna Geislerová
Jaroslav DusekMartin Huba
Other Projects Involving Lunacy (2006) Director
Jan Svankmajer

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Lunacy (2006) Review-lite [150-word cap]
Beginning with short films in the 1960s, Czech director Jan Svankmajer's first feature film was an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland called Neco z Alenky which was released circa 1988. His newest feature, Lunacy, is based on short stories by Edgar Allen Poe and Marquis de Sade. The main character, Jean Berlot (Pavel Liska), while on a journey home from his mother's funeral, has a recurring nightmare about being taken away by men in white coats. While asleep, he destroys the room at the Inn where he's staying. Later, he is 'rescued' by a suspicious and ill-tempered Marquis (Jan Triska) who befriends him, pays for his damages, and becomes his patron taking him home to live in his mansion. There, things take a turn for the worse for Jean as the inmates begin to take over the asylum. Svankmajer has blurred lines between sanity and insanity creating a surreal experience.

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