Jan Svankmajer
Flora
Medium: short film
Year: 1989
Writer/director: Jan Svankmajer
Keywords: animation
Country: Czechoslovakia
Language: Czech
Format: Half a minute
Url: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0169912
Website category: Foreign language
Review date: 20 November 2013
Meat Love isn't Svankmajer's shortest film. This is.
What both of them have in common is that they're both far too short and exactly the right length. They're too short because you want Svankmajer to explore his twisted material further and make something more substantial than a thirty or sixty second film. They're good, but they last as long as a sneeze.
However they're exactly the right length because Svankmajer's resisting the temptation to pad them out. If he thinks they'll work best at half a minute, then dammit, half a minute is what they'll be. Both are certainly as rich in meaning as many people's feature films. Flora is about rotting food. Cabbages. Cauliflowers. Green stuff. However the camera then pulls back to show us a human made of these vegetables, who's been tied to a bed. (Male? Female? She's female in my memory, but I suspect that's open to audience interpretation.)
She rots. The vegetables decay and are eaten by worms. Meanwhile there's a glass of water sitting near her bound hand, either as the sadistic gesture of a serial killer or as part of the standard facilities offered by wherever she is. (Being tied up and left to die was presumably extra.)
She dies.
Personally I think it looks like a scene from a serial killer movie, which encouraged me to pigeon-hole it a little too quickly, but that's something I'm bringing to the piece from outside. That's the point of surrealism, isn't it? If you're making your own connections with the piece, that's good.
Was anyone trying to help her? Are the police outside? What's the significance of Svankmajer for once choosing to do horrible things to vegetables instead of his favourite visual ingredient, raw meat? Answers: none. The film doesn't explain. It allows you to draw your own conclusions. You might think it's too short to allow much audience contemplation, but the images will stay with you longer than the film's running time. It's also so short that, again, you're almost being invited to go back and watch it three or four times. Recommended.