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Little Otik (2000) * Weird & Wacky *

"Such a cute widdle log you are!  Yes you are! YEEES you are!"
"Such a cute widdle log you are! you'll grow up big as a Redwood and eat ALL your friends! Yes you will!"

Genre: Dark Comedy Fantasy (Czech Republic, UK, Japan)

Starring: Veronika Zilková, Jan Hartl

Directed By: Jan Svankmajer (Alice; Faust)

Overview: A couple discovers that they are both infertile. When Karel carves a baby doll out of a tree root for his wife as a simple gesture, it becomes her fixation as she convinces herself the child is real. Both mother and father are in for a quite a surprise.


Svankmajer's style is as obvious here as it is with his other works. He spends far more time engaging in the live-action than I've seen him do in the other films I've seen him direct, which just shows us that he's growing out of the strictly / mostly stop-motion animated films listed next to his name above. He's symbolic, he's quirky, and maybe just downright odd. I love him.
Rating: 8


Of late I've been especially cognizant of the lens' role in film. From unassuming captures to the most hyper-stylized visions as seen through fisheyes, high angle tilts, or with strange pans and composition, the lens it what lets you see the story being told, adds a flavour to it. Those of you familiar with Alice will recognize the frequent use of extreme close-ups on minutia, like hands doing up buttons, like mouths eating or the corner of a table. Shot in this fashion, with macro focus on detail adds an element of fantasy to the everyday, as well as a veneer of otherworldlyness, all while being rooted in the daily lives of people, and above all, a quirky originality that defines the director and makes his work recognizable. Did I mention this also has stop-motion? I'd love to know how many carved logs they needed to make Otik move like that.
Rating: 9


Funny at times with occasional plain old out-there moments of disbelief, we have characters that are archetypal as fairy tales, regular as your neighbour and odd as freaks in the east wing of the mental hospital. Very complimentary.
Rating: 8


Fairy tales for adults are more than merely a passing fancy for me. They're one of my favorite Genres with Horror often championing the cause, though more often than not it lacks in the 'high-art' and the 'festival film' feel that is the decent storyline. This is a well paced three-act, exploring the world and the growth of this vicious little child while still being thoughtful and intelligent, with madness and desire for companionship as large a characters as any of the hapless tenants.
Rating: 8


We open with a man and wife learning they will never have children. The next few minutes are the most beautiful of the entire film, as we see the husband pining over the constant thought that is 'baby'. We see Karel gazing at a row of baby-filled bellies in the doctor's waiting room, we see him staring at a fish merchant selling his wares. The merchant scoops a fresh live baby out of the tank next to him, puts it in a scale, then wraps it up in newspaper, handing it to his customer as he takes the next and swirls it around the tank full of babies. He drives, stops at a crosswalk where children and pregnant mothers constantly fill his field of view... then an old hunchback. To sum it up quickly, the constant knowledge that 'child at any cost' is the driving factor here.
Rating: 9

"Come now! Why can't you be more like Otik! He grew up in the woods and still he has better manners!"
"Come now! Why can't you be more like Otik! He grew up in the woods and STILL he has better manners!"

Overall Rating: 84% (See The Forest For The Otik!)

When I think stop-motion, I think of Jan Svankmajer and I think of Brothers Quay. That's because they're the best at making frightening Avant-Garde tales that aren't too obscure, and their style is without a doubt one that embraces the medium while still creating a world that most certainly isn't for children.

Not that I've seen them, but Wallace And Gromit and Chicken Run suck. They're stop-motion animation that doesn't honour its roots, and above all things, Little Otik definitely honours his roots...

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