396. The Hand – Jiri Trnka

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SUMMARY: An artist who wants nothing more than to make clay pots for flowers is bullied into making sculptures of a giant hand that invades his world.

WHY IT’S HERE: Many artists dream of their final film being their definitive statement but Czech animator Jiri Trnka is one of the few who achieved this feat. Trnka’s final film before his death, ‘The Hand’, is undoubtedly the man’s masterpiece in a career that took in many great shorts and feature films. Trnka’s immediately recognisable style of fixed-expression puppets who convey everything through their incredibly expressive movements suits this allegory of government repression perfectly. The story is told impeccably across its 18 minutes and emerges as one of the most powerful symbolic anti-establishment statements ever put on film. Amazingly, ‘The Hand’ slipped by uncensored on its original release but after Trnka’s death several years later the Soviet-controlled government of Czechoslovakia banned the film, a ban that went unlifted for over two decades. Seen today, ‘The Hand’ is still as powerful and sadly relevant as ever and remains one of the greatest animated shorts of all time, receiving much well-deserved acclaim and providing a perfect finale for the career of one of animation’s most original talents.

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