Screened as part of NZIFF 2001

Otesánek 2000

Directed by Jan Švankmajer

Czech Republic / UK In Czech with English subtitles
127 minutes 35mm


Production Co

Illuminations Films


Jaromír Kallista
Jan Švankmajer
Keith Griffiths


Jan Švankmajer. Based on a Czech folk tale


Juraj Galvánek


Marie Zemanová

Art Directors

Eva Švankmajerová
Jan Švankmajer


Bedřich Glaser
Martin Kublák


Ivo Špalj


Veronika Žilková (Božena)
Jan Hartl (Karel)
Kristina Adamcová (Alžbětka)
Jaroslava Kretschmerová (Her mother)
Pavel Nový (Her father)


‘Myths contain more than material for frightening small children,’ filmmaker Jan Švankmajer reminds us – and he provides telling evidence in this bizarre and blackly hilarious elaboration of a peculiarly Czech fairy tale about a monstrous baby that grows from a dug-up tree root. Combining live action, puppetry and object animation with unaccustomed smoothness, he relocates the story to a modern city apartment block, complete with his trademark cellar and persistently curious little girl. ‘After the mapping of the human genome, such myths are becoming increasingly relevant,’ says Švankmajer. Those who look to medical science to overcome human infertility should consider themselves warned. — BG

Animator, animist and full-time ‘militant surrealist’ Jan Švankmajer is cinema’s iconoclast, using film to carve animated nightmares from wood, bones, food and even humans. Mr and Mrs Horák desperately want a baby. One day they make little Otík. Little Otík would be a lovely child, except that he is a tree stump. Mr and Mrs Horák don’t mind. They lovingly spoon gruel into his knot of a mouth.

Soon little Otík gets bigger and bigger, and hungrier and hungrier. They buy him more and more delicious pork, but little Otík is so hungry. One day the cat disappears; next, the mailman. The Horáks don’t want to punish Otík: he’s their baby. But one day they must, and then only the neighbor girl Alžbětka will take care of Otík. But little Otík is still so hungry.

A jaw-dropping fable about the human need for (pro)creation, Otesánek presents a world where the natural order is giddily reversed. Here vegetation is carnivorous, humans are more wooden than trees, and objects have concrete desires. — Jason Sanders, San Francisco Film Festival 2001

People interpret this film hundreds of ways. They are all correct. — Jan Švankmajer