Director: Jan Švankmajer
Release Date: 1988
Švankmajer’s films in the communist years preceding the velvet revolution of 1989 show a lighter tone than his earlier films. It’s like one can breath some of the thawing atmosphere in Czechoslovakia during the Perestroika years.
‘Virile games’ is a typical example. Although the film contains some very graphic violence, the film remains a rather cartoony atmosphere, and its end is rather tongue-in-cheek.
In ‘Virile Games’ we follow a mustached man watching a football match on the television. It’s a very weird soccer match, however: all players have the spectator’s face, and scoring happens by killing the opponents. These killings occur in the most bizar ways, all deforming the opponent’s head till the player drops dead. One opponent for example is killed with cake forms, another by toy train….
In the second half the football match moves to the spectator’s own home, and the killing continues with the man’s own kitchen tools. However, tied to his screen, the man keeps watching the television set, not noticing that the violence occurs just around him.
In this film Švankmajer blends live action, stop motion, rather Terry Gilliam-like cut-out animation and pixillation with the stunning self-assurance of a mature film maker. Especially the clay-animation is top-notch. Like Georges Schwizgebel’s ‘Hors-jeu‘ (1977) the film directly couples soccer to violence, a clear indication of the author’s worries about growing football hooliganism. Apart from that, the film shows the maker’s trademark ingredients, like his obsession with food.
Watch ‘Virile Games’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘Virile Games’ is available on the DVD ‘Jan Svankmajer – The Complete Short Films’