Comfortable and Furious

Little Otik (2000)

Melting clocks are OK, but I like surrealism with a malicious edge. The breaks from reality and convention should feel like assaults and the absurdities should expose, satirize and even ridicule. That’s how things are in Little Otik, which became one of my favorite movies about 10 minutes after I started the DVD.

An infertile couple takes some time in the woods. The husband carves a tree stump into a baby. The wife instantly treats the stump as a real child. The stump comes to life and begins eating people, which is more or less OK with mom. Mother love is portrayed as a selfish, animalistic, need requiring an outlet, rather than the product of a dedicated, personal relationship. More broadly, the film conveys a Swiftian disgust with the animal functioning of human beings, especially eating.

As Jeremy Heilman of points out, Little Otik bears a strong similarity to Peter Jackson’s zombie flick, Dead Alive. A very strong similarity, from the disgusting food, to the creepy mom, to the camera angles to people and pets being eaten. It’s possible that Otik is heavily borrowing from Dead Alive. You could almost argue that it’s a rip off. I don’t really care. As much as I love Dead Alive, I love Otik more.

The biggest reason I love it so is that streak of maliciousness, but there’s also Jan Svankmajer’s unique imagination. You will see things by watching this film that you would never, ever see otherwise. And this movie is as funny as, if not funnier than Dead Alive.
Most of the humor is based on absurd imagery and doesn’t translate well to print. Try to imagine however, stop-motion animation of a tree stump carved into a vaguely human form, dressed as a baby, sucking down carrot soup from a bottle. That will instantly appeal to about one in four of you, who should go to any lengths track down this classic.

Special Ruthless Ratings:

  • Number of times the movie was paused to do something else: 0
  • Number of times you laughed out loud: 6
  • Number of minutes it took you to add all of Svankmajer’s other DVDs to your rental queue: about 2200
  • Number of NFL games Jaquay picked correctly this week: 0