viznut's amazing discoveries

[2007-09-05]

Czechoslovakian steampunk from the 1950s

Some days ago, Finnish television officially switched from analog to digital broadcasting. This wasn't a big issue for me, as I very seldom watch TV and have actually lived without a single glance for several months already. However, there could be a single valid excuse for me to purchase a digital TV set-top box -- it is the government-funded channel "YLE Teema", which is often able to dig up some quite obscure and interesting material for broadcasting.

Recently, for example, I realized that Teema has a movie slot on Monday evenings where they have, among all, decades-old sci-fi and fantasy movies from the former East Block. Last week, they showed the 1920s Soviet sci-fi classic Aelita, and on upcoming weeks there'll be many space adventure films from the Soviet Union, East Germany and Poland.

While browsing the list of upcoming movies and looking for more information about them, however, I came up to something that really blew me off: the "mystimation" movies from the Czech animator Karel Zeman (1910-1989).

I was able to find some YouTube collages of Zeman's Jules Verne -inspired work:

For some reason, I had managed to completely miss Zeman's work until recently, so seeing these clips was a totally new experience for me. "Mystimation" seems to refer to the combination of live action with painted backgrounds and various animation techniques. In these clips, situated in a "steampunk" milieu, the backgrounds mostly look like 19th century woodcuts (more apparent in the longer video), and the overall visual result appeals to me quite a lot.

There are also excerpts from "Baron Munchhausen", which applies the techniques to a Middle-Eastern milieu with a different visual style, as well as a documentary about Zeman's special effects.

Anyway, I'm now looking for a chance of seeing some of these films in their entirety.