Short Film Saturday- The Tragedy of Man & Sisyphus

OK, I will readily admit that this one is a cheat as it is not a short film per se but rather a trailer. However, oh what a trailer it is and on the heels of yesterday’s post regarding the general terribleness of the form I felt this was an appropriate antidote.

For below you will witness in about two-and-a-half minutes much of the tone, the concept behind Marcell Jankovics’ The Tragedy of Man and a lot of the story. However, what you don’t get in its entirety is the epic sweep of the 2 hour and 40 minute tale, the precise allusions and comparisons only intimations of what they are.

Here’s the article on Cartoon Brew that made me aware of it:

One of the most unique voices in animation, Marcell Jankovics, the Hungarian director of features like Fehérlófia and shorts like Sisyphus, has completed a new feature. And this is not any film, but a two-hour, forty-minute epic that was in production for nearly 25 years!

The film, Az ember tragédiája (The Tragedy of Man) was released in Hungary last December. It’s adapted from a famous Hungarian play of the same name written by Imre Madách. A film review by Vassilis Kroustallis suggests that it’s relentlessly bleak and somewhat repetitive, yet worth seeing:

Lucifer, the co-creator of the world (according to his statement) tests Adam and puts him to sleep to see his destiny through the ages. The trip is interesting, visually stimulating (but never pretty), and relentlessly repeating. Not a single note of happiness or laughter enters The Tragedy of Man, which proceeds from the Garden of Eden to Egypt and then to classical Greece, Rome, Christianity and beyond…The choice of the stories to tell is varied and remarkable. Along with the usual historical suspects (Danton and the French Revolution, Hitler and Stalin), the Miltiades story from Greece (a general who becomes a traitor), and the Tancred and Crusades segment—along with the battles on the Filioque—are a treat to watch in this context.

Jankovics’ work is always a unique visual experience, and one expects this to be no different. Aeon Flux creator Peter Chung described Jankovics’ style best when he wrote that Jankovics can “make the movement a primary aspect of the design. Every element—character & setting, foreground & background, color & shape, is integrated into a total composition in motion. It approaches the idea of animation as a visual equivalent to music, with analogs to melody, rhythm and harmony working in a non-literal evocation of ideas and feelings.

At last the trailer:

The Tragedy of Man (2011)

I know after having seen this I am going crazy with anticipation to get a chance to see this film. That’s just based on the trailer alone. You combine that with the fact that this is film is based on a play that spawned one of my favorite films, The Annunciation, and it’s a must-see in my book anyway.

Now, to make up for the above cheat, here’s an actual short of his entitled Sisyphus.

Thankful for World Cinema- The Annunciation

When looking for a theme in which to select films from the start of November until Thanksgiving being literal is not the best option. Films centered around Thanksgiving tend to be overly obsessed with dysfunctional families. So in thinking about the nature of the day which was initially a celebration of survival in the New World, I thought why not focus on foreign films.

The Annunciation

Péter Bocsor and Júlia Mérö in The Annunciation (Hungarofilm)

If you’re ready for a mind-bending account that is likely to be one of the most bizarre film-watching experiences you’ve ever had then The Annunciation is for you. One thing that shows you almost off the bat that this is a challenging film is that as the story changes location the subtitles include location cards, which are not dictated by the film itself.

However, owing that the shift in locations and time period are due to the fact that it is a dream should make it an easier watch. This existential tale of Adam and Eve is still ripe with multiple meanings and answers that can be gleaned from the text of it.

Another thing that should be noted that all the characters, save for circus performers near the end, are played by children. If you have a problem with child actors I feel sorry for you but I also then do not recommend this film to you because they are dealing with very real material, extraordinarily challenging material that they dive headlong into and perform spectacularly.

The things that can be observed as Lucifer sends Adam and Eve through time in similarly dystopian plots are truly fascinating. However, though the film may seem like it’s hellbent on nihilism it ends on a wondrous of hope and sardonic comedy.

It’s a classic of absurdism and dreamlike cinema, cinema in general, which deserves a wider audience.

10/10