542. Dimensions of Dialogue – Jan Svankmajer

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SUMMARY: An examination of three types of human dialogue – ‘Eternal’, ‘Passionate’ and ‘Exhaustive’ – portrayed by a series of animated heads.

WHY IT’S HERE: Perhaps Jan Svankmajer’s most famous short film, ‘Dimensions of Dialogue’ is a brilliant, if deeply cynical, animation which examines the impossibility of human discussion without some kind of detrimental result. In the first part of the film, Svankmajer presents a series of Archimbaldo-inspired heads made from various objects such as fruit, utensils and stationery. The heads aggressively consume each other, spitting out approximations of the two combined until finally everyone becomes a bland, conformist entity. In the second part, two heads melt passionately into one another but the result of their passions leads to violence and destruction. And finally, in the best of the three segments, two clay heads stick out various items on or in place of tongues. At first they help each other out, with a pencil from one tongue resulting in a sharpener from the other, or a toothbrush from one side inspiring toothpaste from the other. But as they begin to pre-empt each other’s requirements, the wrong items begin to emerge and chaos ensues. A subtle vein of humour has always been evident even in Svankmajer’s creepiest films but ‘Dimensions of Dialogue’ pushes this humour (albeit pessimistic and troubling) to the forefront. The animation of Svankmajer’s various heads is utterly superb and this grotesquely philosophical piece offers us laughter in the face of a despairing worldview.

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